A month or so, both these teams were in poor shape. Despondent fan bases. Empty arenas.
Things have changed a little. The arenas are not quite full, of course. But both the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers have turned some sort of corner. The Cavs no longer look like the worst team in the league. The Pistons have worked themselves into the East’s seventh seed after strenuous debates among the fanbase about whether or not they should make a midseason decision to tank. So these are happier times. We’ll see how it plays out tonight.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (15-47) vs. Detroit Pistons (29-31)
When: 5:00 p.m. EST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio
Enemy Blog: Detroit Bad Boys
TV: Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Online: Fox Sports GO, NBA League Pass
Cavs status updates: Tristan Thompson (OUT - foot soreness), John Henson (OUT - wrist), J.R. Smith (NWT), Ante Zizic (OUT - concussion)
Pistons status updates: None
Cavs expected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, Brandon Knight, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, Larry Nance, Jr.
Pistons expected starting lineup: Reggie Jackson, Wayne Ellington, Kyhri Thomas, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond
Three Keys to the Game
- Who wins the power forward matchup?
Kevin Love and Blake Griffin are both a little older and have both been written off as having had the game pass them by a bit. Griffin’s been pretty great all year, so it’s a bit unfair to put him with Love who’s simply had a nice couple weeks since returning from injury, but these are really great players who deserve a little more respect than NBA media has been interested in giving. The Cavs can win this game if Love plays like a top-15 NBA player. That’s far from assured obviously, but for a Pistons team with their head on straight it would likely be necessary.
In the meantime, Griffin will attempt to impose his will on the game. He shoots threes now, and scores from anywhere. He’ll attempt lots of shots; if the Cavs can somehow control him it’ll go a long way.
2. How good will Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman be?
Both Sexton and Osman seem to have turned a bit of a corner and were impressive in February. Now that we’re into March, can they keep it up for another 45 days or so? As they’ve reached new levels of competence it’s allowed the Cavs to stay competitive in games; they’re going to play a lot of minutes regardless of how they perform, so the real variable outcome is wins and losses.
3. The Pistons have a lot more to play for. Will it show?
The Pistons can realistically play their way to a six seed. The Cavs ... well, the organization is fine losing. The players and coaching staff don’t see it that way, and energy hasn’t been an issue for Cleveland. Even so, the Pistons should have an easier time finding motivation. Things are a bit more desperate for them. Even though they’re playing better lately, they’ve had ups and downs and it’s unlikely they want a Saturday game in Cleveland to go the wrong way. The good news for the Cavs is that they’re hungry and didn’t give up even after the Trailblazers made a billion shots in the first half the other night. This should be a fun game.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless Prediction
The Pistons are coming off a tough loss to the Spurs, but they’ve won seven of their last nine games. They’ll win 108-97.