Thunder (52-22, 22-13 road) vs. Pistons (39-35, 24-13 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 6:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.1 (2nd), Pistons – 103.3 (16th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (11th), Pistons – 103.6 (14th)
You know, I can’t really think of another player in the league that irks my nerves as much as Reggie Jackson does. I’ve gotten over my hatred for Patrick Beverly, seeing as Russell Westbrook seems to have recovered okay from the torn meniscus he suffered in the 2013 playoffs. Chris Paul, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, LeBron James…they don’t really move the needle in my book. But Jackson…ooowee, he sticks in my craw.
And it has nothing to do with his departure. The whole “tears of joy, God is great” tweet kind of irked me at first, but then I just said, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.” But its the way in which he forced his departure that gets to me. He sucked so bad in December and the early parts of January, that it forced the Thunder to basically trade for Dion Waiters. His scoring average went from 19.5 to 12.4 to 9.4 from November through January. And this is not a bash on Waiters, but if Jackson had bided his time and played to his potential, then maybe we are looking at a much better option at SG than Waiters. Maybe Detroit still ends up with Jackson, but instead trades DJ Augustin and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Or maybe they trade their 1st round pick from last season (it eventually went 9th where they grabbed Stanley Johnson).
Here’s the ironic part, though. It was the right move for Jackson. He definitely had the talent to run his own team and has been successful in his first full season as a starting point guard. Is he ever going to be elite? Probably not. This is definitely not a James Harden situation. But he is a starting caliber player that would have been great as a 6th man/2nd ball-handler for the Thunder had he wanted to stay. But alas, we’re doing just fine and would probably be in the same position had Jackson remained on the team.
This is the second and final meeting of the season between the Thunder and Pistons. This was Reggie Jackson’s first game back in Oklahoma City since he was traded and he was booed mercilessly. The anticipated matchup between Jackson and Westbrook probably led to a little too much adrenaline being pumped between the two players as they both had poor games. The Thunder were saved by Kevin Durant, who had 34 points and 13 rebounds to lead OKC to a 103-87 victory.
The Pistons come into this game with a 39-35 record, good for 8th in the East. They are 2.5 games ahead of the Wizards and Bulls, who both have 36-37 records. Detroit lost their last game, but had previously won their last 5 before that. Other than rebounding, they are middle of the road in most other stats.
While Jackson is the engine that gets the team going, Andre Drummond is the horsepower that propels it. The athletic big man is averaging a career high in points (16.7), and leads the league in rebounding at 14.9 per game. Newly acquired SF Tobias Harris has relished his new role and is averaging 16.4 points and 6.1 boards since arriving in Detroit. Marcus Morris has taken the split from his twin a lot better than Markieff and is averaging a career high 14 points per game. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rounds out the starting line-up and is averaging 14.8 ppg.
Detroit’s starters are pretty good. It’s their depth where they get in trouble. Trading Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings to Orlando for Harris eliminated some of the depth Detroit had coming off the bench. When the Houston trade for Marcus Thornton and Donatas Motiejunas fell through over concerns involving Motiejunas’ back, that left Detroit lacking big time in the bench department. Their main players off the bench are rookie Stanley Johnson, Aron Bayes, Anthony Tolliver, and Steve Blake. Not really a who’s who of bench players.
3 Big Things1. Rebounding
Oklahoma City and Detroit are two of the best rebounding teams in the league. Both are the only teams in the league to average over 12 offensive rebounds per game. In their last meeting, the Thunder outrebounded the Pistons 58-38. Whoever wins the rebounding battle in this game will go a long way to improving their chances of winning.2. Protect the Paint
Detroit is one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the league. They shoot the deep ball at just a 34.1% clip, good for 23rd in the league. The do a lot of their damage from Jackson’s dribble penetrations and Drummond’s offensive rebounding. Caldwell-Pope is really struggling from three, shooting just 30.5% for the season. Jackson, Harris, and Morris each shoot about 35% from deep. If the Thunder can protect the paint and force the Pistons to shoot long contested jumpers, they should be able to force Detroit into some uncomfortable situations on offense.3. Focus
In the last meeting, Russell Westbrook seemed to lose a bit of his focus going against Jackson. Westbrook was not a fan of Jackson’s antics leading to his trade and let his displeasure be known. If Westbrook can hone in and focus, he should be able to dominate Jackson, who is a fan of the Ole’ defense.
Anthony Tolliver – While he may not score 20+ points, I could definitely see Tolliver making at least 4 threes against us tonight. He’s the type of player that if you leave him open from the corner, he’ll light you up.