Pistons vs. Thunder preview: Shai it ain’t so

Detroit Bad Boys

The Detroit Pistons have lost eight of nine games, but they are well-rested, healthier and have their best opportunity for a win until a Dec. 28 showdown against the Orlando Magic. After winning four straight, including an overtime thriller against the Dallas Mavericks, the Oklahoma City Thunder have dropped two with lopsided losses to the Denver Nuggets and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Game Vitals

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +1


The Thunder might be a rebuilding team facing a fair amount of challenges, but they also have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and that matters for a heck of a lot. The dynamic 6-foot-6 guard is averaging a career-high 30.5 points with a 62% true shooting percentage. He’s also getting to the line more than seven times per game and hitting 96% of his free throws. Oh yeah, and he’s also averaging 2.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Despite getting nearly all of the defensive attention, SGA is thriving in his fifth season, and if the Pistons can’t find some way to contain him, it will likely be a long night in Detroit. Luckily, the Pistons are healthier than they have been in quite some time.

For the first time this season, the Pistons had a full complement of players in practice on Sunday, which includes Jalen Duren (probable tonight), Marvin Bagley III (out) and Alec Burks (out). Bagley is likely nearing a return from a right knee sprain, and Burks has missed the entire season so far as he rehabilitates a foot injury suffered last season.

With the arrival of Duren, the undersized Pistons get a vital big body back into the lineup, and when Bagley returns, the team will likely start experimenting with two-big lineups featuring Isaiah Stewart and either Duren or Bagley focused on putting pressure in the paint area.

The rim gravity could help the team’s point guards and also help a team that stands at 28th in the NBA in total rebound percentage. Of course, that is predicated on Stewart actually becoming a threat on the outside, and so far opponents don’t seem to be taking Beef Stew’s 3-point shot seriously. He’s hitting 26% from the outside this season on 3 attempts per game.

Really, though, this game is a matchup between two lead guards in SGA and Cade Cunningham. Last year, Cade had one of his best games against the Thunder, scoring 28 points, hitting 6 threes and securing 11 rebounds. He was bested by Shai in that contest, as the Thunder guard had 30 points and 13 assists while getting to the line 15 times. The Thunder also won 114-103.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (2-8)

Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart

Oklahoma City Thunder (4-5)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Luguentz Dort, James Robinson-Earl, Mike Muscala

Question of the Game

Who has the higher draft pick this season, the Detroit Lions who are fresh off a win against the hated Green Bay Packers, or the Detroit Pistons, who are also bad but need to rely on lottery luck?

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