Dwight Howard's Rockets visit Detroit

Essentials

  • Teams: Houston Rockets (17-10) at Detroit Pistons (13-15)
  • Date: December 21, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: FS Detroit Plus

What to look for

The Detroit Pistons self-destructed last night against the Charlotte Bobcats. They held a 14-point lead at the end of the third quarter and seemed well on their way to securing a home victory against the Bobcats.

Kemba Walker was having a good game, but Detroit was firmly in control by virtue of a superior shooting night from long range and a 10-rebound advantage. The Pistons then fell apart in the final frame and were outscored 41-17. Al Jefferson struggled throughout most of the contest but then morphed into Hakeem Olajuwon in the last 12 minutes of the contest.

Jefferson scored 15 points and collected five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. Big Al was a beast on the interior and simply could not be stopped. He went to the low post and essentially destroyed whoever was tasked with defending him.

He used hook shots, up and under moves, drop steps and jump shots on his way to victimizing Detroit’s frontline. It’s easy obviously to second-guess decisions well after the fact, but Mo Cheeks’ unwillingness to send help his way is certainly intriguing to say the least.

The Bobcats connected on two long-range shots in the quarter, but still only converted three of their 10 treys overall. The coaching staff’s strategy was somewhat puzzling, but more importantly, it gave us a look at their stance against interior players.

Indeed, the Palace of Auburn Hills will host the Houston Rockets tonight who happen to feature arguably the best center in basketball. Dwight Howard is coming to town and he presents matchup problems for just about any team in the league.

Granted, as Zach Lowe noted over at Grantland, Howard is no longer the explosive player the basketball world became accustomed in 2009:

Peak Dwight didn’t have moves and countermoves as much as fluid explosions in every direction. He built his post arsenal on sweeping hook shots he could launch while dribbling toward the middle of the floor with either hand, from either block. If he caught the ball on the right block, he liked to face up, throw a shoulder fake toward the baseline, and then barrel into the lane for a lefty hook. But if defenders tracked him there, he could spin right back toward the baseline for a counterattack.

Nonetheless, he is a still a handful as the Indiana Pacers can attest. Through the first quarter of the season, Roy Hibbert is the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and yet, he could not find a way to really slow down the Rockets center last night. Have a look for yourself:

Howard used his footwork and quickness repeatedly against Hibbert to consistently connect from the field. The former Orlando Magic big man converted five such hook shots against the Pacers center. Indiana opted to use single coverage every now and then, and they paid for it.

The Rockets were blown out at Indiana last night, because the Pacers’ defense was simply overwhelming. They stuffed every avenue Houston turned to save for Howard’s post-ups.

Detroit does not share Indiana’s defensive discipline and consequently, we might be in for a shootout. Kevin McHale’s crew is the proud owner of a top-five offense that is predicated on interior field goals and long-range shots.

Houston is ranked no lower than fifth in attempts directly at the rim and shots from downtown. Detroit struggles in defending both of these types of shots. As a result, they might need to score some to keep the game within striking distance and pull it out late.

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