Pistons (24-40, won last 1) @ Pacers (41-23, lost last 1)
* 97.88 ppg (12th) vs. 94.41 points allowed (9th)
* 43.9% FG (23rd) vs. 43.4% FG allowed (6th)
* 43.84 rppg (5th) vs. 42.28 rebounds allowed (17th)
* 18.61 appg (28th) vs. 14.05 TO pg (9th)
PG-Rodney Stuckey vs. George Hill
SG-Brandon Knight vs. Paul George
SF-Tayshaun Prince vs. Danny Granger
PF-Jason Maxiell vs. David West
C-Greg Monroe vs. Roy Hibbert
Detroit-Ben Gordon, Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace
Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, Leandro Barbosa, Darren Collison, Lou Amundson
Injuries of note
Statistically the Pistons are one of the worst teams in the NBA, as they excel at literally nothing on paper. Their wins this month have come against a struggling Orlando team, the Cavs (minus Kyrie Irving), the historically-bad Charlotte Bobcats, the almost equally-terrible Wizards and most recently, a three point win vs. Toronto where both teams combined for a paltry 149 points. Indiana, meanwhile, was the hottest team in the league heading into Saturday night’s loss vs. Philadelphia, but still earned a #3 seed guarantee with a Hawks loss last night to New York. While the Pacers have very little to play for, they could probably beat the Pistons in their sleep, and that’s likely what they’ll be doing tonight. Starters may rest a bit, but Paul George will likely continue seeing heavy minutes as he gets used to his new role, absorbing Dahntay Jones’s playing time. Jones has been shifted out of the rotation in favor of a 9-man unit that includes George running with the second team.
The lone bright spot for Detroit this season has been budding superstar Greg Monroe. Monroe is one of the league’s most promising young big men. He passes well, and has some very quick hands for a guy his size, as evidenced by the 9 steals he’s accumulated over the last four games. In many ways, Monroe is like Roy Hibbert, the center he’ll be matched up with tonight. In two previous matchups vs. Hibbert, Monroe has averaged 13.5 points and 9 rebounds, slightly under his season averages, but has been red hot from the floor, shooting 58%. Detroit also theoretically has some veteran depth along the wing. The four-man perimeter rotation of Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and rookie Brandon Knight is fully capable of putting up points, it just, like many other aspects of Detroit’s 2011-12 season, hasn’t really worked out.
The Pistons have a fighting chance for a win tonight if Indiana gets lazy and/or decides to go primarily with the second unit for long stretches. In a way, doing so may be beneficial for the Pacers, even if they can’t get a win. The starters, who’ve been overwhelmingly more potent on offense than the reserves lately, need rest, and Darren Collison still needs to become acclimated to his now-permanent bench role. On the other hand, it would be nice to see leading scorer Danny Granger get a chance to shoot himself out of the funk he experienced Saturday night, when he mustered just four points on 2-12 shooting, shocking considering his recent hot streak. We shall see how Frank Vogel and his staff approaches these last two games.
Prediction: Pacers 89, Pistons 80
I expect a sort of sloppy, disjointed game as the Pacers wind down their regular season and try to get the second unit clicking with Darren Collison at the helm, before heading into the playoffs as the #3 seed. However, as I said before, even not fully effective, this Pacers team can probably handle the likes of Detroit.
Lucas Klipsch believes in justice. Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317