3-on-3: Can the Pistons do anything to contain James Harden and the Rockets tonight?


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (0-6) at Houston Rockets (2-3)
  • Date: November 10, 2012
  • Time: 8p.m.
  • Television: FSD

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, we will have three writers answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Today, previewing the Rockets-Pistons game with me are Michael Pina (follow him on Twitter) of Houston Rockets blog Red94 and Ben Gulker (follow him on Twitter) of Pistons blog Detroit Bad Boys.

Please add your responses in the comments.

The Pistons had the honor of being the first victim in the Season of Harden, but they also struggled to guard Jeremy Lin and Carlos Delfino in that game. Why was Houston’s backcourt such a difficult matchup and what, if anything, can Detroit do differently this time to slow those three down?

Patrick Hayes: I don’t think they can do anything with Harden. Rodney Stuckey was completely overmatched the first time around and they have no other guard on the roster who would have a prayer in that matchup, although it would be nice to see Kim English get a longer crack at it if Stuckey struggles.

The biggest thing the Pistons need to do is close out on shooters. Lin and Delfino didn’t have a hand in their face all night. Even a minimal effort to contest threes would be progress from the first game.

Michael Pina: In the season opener, Lin and Delfino both played well as effective offensive options, but Harden was clearly the head and brain behind Houston’s scheme. Almost every possession revolved around him initiating a pick-and-roll, and time after time it seemed like Harden was able to make guys like Lin and Delfino look better than we may have expected them to be. The Pistons haven’t been the greatest defensively this season (currently ranked the second worst team in the league by NBA.com/Stats), and I’m not sure slowing down a rested Harden is possible right now.

Ben Gulker: Historically, Rodney Stuckey has always defended the PG position better than the SG position, because of his size and strength advantage against many PGs. Against NBA SGs, that advantage disappears. Brandon Knight‘s struggles defensively are less obvious; he has the tools that should equip him well defensively, but his defense has been lacking.

At the end of the day, these guys need to get a whole lot better defensively in order to be a legitimate starting backcourt. That kind of improvement are typically made during the off season, not in the midst of an NBA season, so I’m not terribly optimistic they’ll handle Harden and Lin that much better.

Our best hope to shore up the defense against guys like Harden and Lin may be more minutes for Andre Drummond. Dribble penetration killed the Pistons in the opener, and even though Dre has looked a little lost on rotations and help defense, ] having an athletic defender with his shot-blocking ability may be the best defense the Pistons have. If you can’t keep them out of the paint, in other words, at least make it tough once they get there.

As for Delfino, it seems pretty simple: don’t leave him open. The Pistons didn’t look prepared for Houston’s new look, and they adjusted poorly to Harden’s dribble penetration. Perimeter defenders helped too much, leaving Delfino open to cash in on wide open shots. Don’t leave him wide open, crowd him when he has the ball, and make him dribble.

If the Rockets win this game, it will be because _________ went right for them.

Patrick Hayes: Omer Asik continues to be unmovable. Asik isn’t really an offensive threat, but when he was able to park himself right under the basket virtually any time he wanted against the Pistons, it wasn’t hard for him to catch and finish or get in position for offensive rebounds. The Pistons can’t do much to slow Harden down. They can give a better, more physical effort against the front line.

Michael Pina: They continue to grab offensive rebounds, get to the rim/free-throw line at will, and hit a solid percentage of their many attempted three-pointers

Ben Gulker: Two of three things: Offense, Defense, or Rebounding.

Houston doesn’t have to be brilliant to beat Detroit, just competent. Pick two, and Houston ought to win. If the Rockets play well on offense and on the glass, it will be rough on Detroit. If the Rockets play well on defense and clean the glass, the Pistons won’t be likely to score enough to overcome a poor offense performance from Houston. And if Houston’s offense and defense clicks? De ja vu.

If the Pistons win this game, it will be because _________ went right for them.

Patrick Hayes: The bench continues its strong play. Detroit’s second unit has been virtually the only thing that has gone right for them. If they continue to get energy, defense, shooting and play at the more frenetic pace that is their staple, the Pistons will have a decent chance of getting a win.

Michael Pina: Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe out-muscle Omer Asik and Cole Aldrich on the glass, and Stuckey makes Harden work by hitting more than two shots.

Ben Gulker: Everything? Something? Anything?!?!

Almost nothing has worked so far, so I’d be satisfied with anything going right, regardless of wins and losses. I’d take Stuckey shooting 45% from the field. I’d take Greg Monroe putting up an efficient 18, 10, and 4 with fewer than 2 turnovers. I’d take 25 mistake-free minutes from Drummond with 8 points, 8 boards, a steal, and a block. Frankly, I’d even settle for fifteen minutes of the following lineup, regardless of their performance: Stuckey/English/Jerebko/Monroe/Drummond.

Collectively, the Pistons are among the league’s worst defensively, offensively and on the glass. Better play in any area would be a good first step, and we can talk about wins later.

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Tags: Andre Drummond Brandon Knight Greg Monroe Rodney Stuckey

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