Los Angeles Clippers vs. Detroit Pistons
7:30 p.m. PST
March 22, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. If the Pistons have all this defensive personnel, why is their defense so poor?
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): There’s a reason the Pistons are the only team in the NBA to have fired their coach so far this season. Mo Cheeks, mo’ problems. Detroit doesn’t really have much of a consistent system, Josh Smith is having a down year and though Andre Drummond is overflowing with potential, he’s not there as an anchor just yet.
Seth Partnow, (@WhrOffnsHppns): Who is this defensive personnel of which you speak? Brandon Jennings and Greg Monroe might be the worst duo at defending the pick and roll in the league. Andre Drummond is a bundle of talent, but still gets lost in rotations and is late to help with regularity. Josh Smith has shown, on both ends of the floor, that he’s much more effective near the basket.
Seerat Sohi, (@DamianTrillard): According to some wonderful people with the mental fortitude to watch and write about the Pistons, stronger willed than I, they suffer from the typical defensive issues you’d expect from seemingly good defenders with botched results: late rotations, bad floor balance leading to bad transition defense, a lack of communication, inattentiveness and, at times, the follies of youth. The difference between the Clippers and Pistons defense makes an argument that solid defensive systems trump personnel.
2. You’re playing in a must-win game tonight and you can have either DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond as your center. Who’s your pick?
Katz: Jordan. Maybe in two years, the answer will be Drummond. Heck, maybe that’ll be next year, but at this point, Jordan is the headier defender and the better pick-and-roll partner. And on top of that, he’s probably the last center an opponent wants to see run in the open court.
Partnow: Jordan without a second thought. Though very similar in terms of tools, any advantage Drummond might have in long-term upside is heavily outweighed by DJ’s extra years of development, with the experience he’s had and improvements he’s made under Doc Rivers this season being especially impactful towards his on court production.
Sohi: DeAndre Jordan. See above: The follies of youth. Jordan suffers from this to an extent, but his miscues are becoming fewer and farther between. Drummond is loaded with potential but he’s still wrapping his head around the help-and-recover nature of NBA defense, you know, according to people who actually watch this team. Seriously, let me buy you a beer. Or a sedative.
3. Can the Clippers get the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference?
Katz: The Spurs are never losing again, so the Clippers attaining the best record in the West seems unrealistic, but the No. 2 seed is a possibility with the Thunder sitting Westbrook in half of their four remaining back-to-backs.
Partnow: Probably not. Even if Blake and Co. win out, will the Spurs lose 5 games the rest of the year? At least 7 of their 15 remaining games as of Friday are versus lotto teams including two versus the Nuggets, as well as visits from the 76ers, Lakers and increasingly-willing-to-sit-Anthony-Davis Pellies. Not to mention the Clips would also have to pass the Thunder. 2nd seed is more realistic which makes the April 9 game versus OKC one to circle.
Sohi: 3.5 games is a lot of ground to make up with 13 left but the Clippers have a few scheduling advantages. They play eight games at home and the only contender they’re facing is Houston (chances are, Portland will be resting on April 16th). But the Clippers wing rotation is mired by injuries and Doc Rivers has generally preferred late-season rest, a philosophy I can get behind. Chances are L.A. will fall a tad short.