Are the Pistons legit? Can they guard Paul George? Pacers will provide a good test tonight

Essentials

  • Teams: Indiana Pacers (3-0) at Detroit Pistons (2-1)
  • Date: November 5, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FSD
  • Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket

What to look for

The Pistons’ 2-1 start to the season is certainly preferable to the disastrous starts experienced under monsieurs Keuster and Frank over the past four seasons, but we’ve also yet to see how the Pistons new lineup looks against one of the league’s elite teams. Washington, for all of the positive ‘on paper’ predictions about the team this season, is currently an 0-3 team with significant defensive issues. Boston’s season … hmm … it’s going about as well as any season could go when you hand over the keys to your offense to Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Pistons had some good moments in their lone loss to the Grizzlies, the only team of their three opponents who looks like a potential playoff team, but Detroit’s relative inexperience playing competitive basketball showed as Maurice Cheeks was drastically out-coached down the stretch and the Pistons seemed to wear down late in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The undefeated Pacers are, by far, the best opponent the Pistons have faced so far and they’re a darkhorse candidate to make the NBA Finals if something drastic happens to the Heat. The Pacers are great defensively, they’re deep and, with apologies to the Bulls, they should win the NBA Central Division. But they’re also one of the team’s I’m most interested to see the Pistons match up against for one key reason: Paul George.

George has built on his breakout season a year ago, averaging more than 25 points and eight rebounds per game. In fact, he’s currently leading the Pacers in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals … truly Grant Hill-in-his-prime-esque numbers. He’s also improved off the dribble, which was the biggest knock on him coming into the league. From Jon Washburn of 8 Points, 9 Seconds:

As Miami ratcheted up the pressure in the Eastern Conference Finals, it became increasingly difficult for the Pacers to actually get into their offense. As great as George was, he had at least five turnovers in five of the seven games in that series. The Pacers’ lack of a reliable secondary ball handler/offensive initiator directly contributed to their inability to consistently exploit their advantages down low — one reason the Pacers ultimately lost the series.

That’s why the move George made late in the game against the Pelicans was so important.

Of course the Magic and Pelicans are nowhere near the caliber of the Miami Heat, but through two games, Paul George has shown a much better ability to not only take the ball and attack from the wing, but also create, a la LeBron James or Kevin Durant, from the top of the key. Unlike last year when most of his 3-pointers were of the catch-and-shoot variety, he has also shown the ability to create his own shot for himself, hitting several 3s over defenders near the end of quarters or possessions.

The Pistons have preached a renewed commitment to defense this season. Josh Smith has thus far lived up to his reputation as a defensive player. Rodney Stuckey, for the first time in his career, seems committed at that end of the court. Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has showed his college billing as a tough, committed defender should carry over to the NBA level. So for the first time in many years, the Pistons actually have the athletes on the wings to throw at the elite perimeter players in the league, a group that George is quickly ascending in.

If the Pistons can continue to play with the energy, intensity and defensive focus they’ve showed for three games and can play Indiana competitively, that will give a much better read on what the team is capable of this season.

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

comments powered by Disqus