Opponent: Detroit Pistons
Leading Scorer: Derrick Rose (25.3 PPG)
Leading Rebounder: Andre Drummond (15.7 RPG)
Leading Assists: Rose (5 APG)
Biggest Challenge: Drummond, again
Drummond continued his strong play against the Indiana Pacers in Detroit’s season-opening victory over the Pacers by recording 32 points and 23 rebounds. Despite playing a dual-big lineup, Indiana had no answer for him. He uses his size to bully Myles Turner down low but uses his improved ball-handling and perimeter skills to make moves past Domantas Sabonis. The Pistons’ offense has been a three-man show this season with Drummond, Rose and Luke Kennard leading the way, but Drummond presents the toughest challenge for the Pacers.
Biggest advantage: Scoring depth
In theory, the Pacers have many more threats to put the ball in the hoop than the Pistons. Like I said above, the Pistons’ offense runs through Drummond, Rose and Kennard, and that’s about it. If you can scheme to stop one or two of those guys, the Pistons don’t have as many options to generate offense as the Pacers without Blake Griffin. It’s yet to be determined if the coaching staff has made those adjustments.
The X-Factor: The bench
The Pacers’ bench has been a dud to start the year with Edmond Sumner as their leading scorer with 8 PPG. Someone needs to start generating some offense in that group. The Pistons bench, led by Rose and Kennard, is one of the best in the league and has scored over 60 PPG as a unit to start the season. To get a victory in Detroit, the second-unit will have to find a way to score and get stops. That may be a lot to ask after how they have looked to start the year.
This has suddenly become as much of a must-win as it gets three games into a season. The Pacers have objectively looked bad to start the year, and they need to capitalize on the absence of Griffin. The Pistons will continue to feed Drummond with the starters, while giving a heavy dose of Kennard and Rose in the second-unit with splashes with the starters as the game goes on. Expect to see more Sumner action on Rose defensively than we saw in the first game because he might be the bench’s best shot at slowing him down. The biggest key is slowing down Drummond, Rose and/or Kennard because Detroit is fairly limited after them.