Pistons vs. Hornets preview: The battle for Wembanyama continues at LCA tonight

Detroit Bad Boys

After been stuck in Dallas for the better part of three days, the struggling Detroit Pistons return home to host the lowly but not quite as low Charlotte Hornets. With both franchises firmly in the hunt for projected first overall selection Victor Wenbanyama, the result of tonight’s contest could have significant implications come the NBA’s Draft Lottery in May if not stick in the memory as one of the greatest games anyone will ever see.

The Pistons find themselves as rare favourites in this one, probably in part to their extended rest between outings. While the Hornets will suit up for the back-half of their back-to-back, after falling victim to the Chicago Bulls on their home floor last night.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons -1.5

Analysis

3 Things to watch:

Detroit Pistons v Charlotte Hornets

Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images

1. Point guard battle

When they are on,” Jaden Ivey and Lamelo Ball are two of the league’s most fun players to watch. The combination of Ivey’s electric burst in transition and Ball’s incredible passing vision are a recipe for viral highlight reels.

Since assuming the role of starting point guard last week, Jaden Ivey has flashed improvement as a decision maker in the mid-range sector of the floor. He’s done a better job of adjusting his pacing when entering inside the arc, utilizing the threat of his elite burst to his advantage (rather than blazing away at will) and rising up for mid-range jumpers:

Ivey converted on all 5 of his mid-range attempts against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night, highlighting the refinements he’s made to his ‘in-between’ attack.

Already in his third season (where did the time go?), Lamelo Ball is statistically having his best campaign as a pro. The exuberant playmaker is posting career-highs in points (23.1) and assists (8.3), while hoisting the fourth-most three-point shots a night (10.8). A slew of ankle injuries have kept the 21-year-old sidelined for significant chunks of time, with Ball only participating in 25 games so far this year.

In a battle of Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers, the match-up of Ivey and Ball promises to deliver at least a handful of highlight worthy moments.

2. Potential bounce-back performance for Stew

In the Pistons’ initial meeting with the Hornets back on Dec. 14, Isaiah Stewart put fourth his best outing of the season. Playing at the power forward position, Stewart delivered a forceful 19 points and 11 rebounds on 80% field goal percentage.

To this point, Stew was thriving as one of the team’s biggest improvers. He was exceeding expectations as a shooter—connecting on 37.5% of his threes—and was beginning to demonstrate an ability to attack the rim on drives.

However, since this game, a combination of injuries and poor shooting have resulted in a rough few weeks for the team’s fan favourite. A right shoulder injury has resulted in missed time for Stewart and seems to be a catalyst for the demise of his perimeter shot (25% from three since Dec. 15).

The loss of Marvin Bagley has also impacted Stewart’s role within the rotation, with the 21-year-old required to play almost all his minutes as the team’s backup center. Considering the strides Stewart made as a player at the power forward slot, watching him battle as an undersized center has been frustrating.

New York Knicks v Detroit Pistons

Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

3 . Former Pistons: Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr.

In the 2020-21 season, a season many would like to forget, Mason Plumlee and Dennis Smith Jr. each had their moments with the Pistons. Plumlee started all 56 games in his sole year with the Motor City while Smith Jr. filled a void as the teams back-up point guard in 20 games.

Fast forward to now and amidst a dismal season for the Hornets, the pair of former Pistons have quietly put together productive campaigns.

Plumlee has provided a much-needed interior presence for the Hornets with 12 points and close to 10 rebounds (9.8) a night, while also acting as a playmaking hub on inside-out actions with his 3.6 assists per game.

Injuries to Charlotte’s back-court opened up early court-time for Dennis Smith Jr. and the former-lottery pick has produced when called upon. His 7.8 points and 4.8 assists don’t leap off the page, but his defensive intensity and dribble penetration has been impressive for a reserve point guard.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (13-39)

Jaden Ivey, Alec Burks, Bojan Bogdanovic, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Duren

Charlotte Hornets (15-38)

Lamelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, Mason Plumlee

Question of the Day

If the price was right, does a Kelly Oubre Jr. singing make sense for Detroit this offseason?

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