Pistons vs. Cavaliers (7 ET, NBA TV)
All season long, the Cavaliers have held a comfortable lead as the East’s top seed. However, since he beginning of March, things in Cleveland have been uneasy and the Cavs are 2-5 this month. Their Fan Night foe, the Detroit Pistons, are trending upward with a 4-2 record in March. After a rough three-game road trip, the Cavs return home looking to return to their winnings ways.
Tonight’s game will mark the 210th regular-season meeting between the Central Division rivals. Despite being swept by the Cavs in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, the Pistons lead the 2016-17 season series 2-1. Detroit has stifled Cleveland, holding it to 98.3 ppg this season. If the Pistons can continue their stout defense, they will win the season series for two seasons running.
If the Cavaliers plan to defend their title, they’ll need to do a better job on defense. Cleveland has allowed nine of its last 10 opponents to score 100 or more points and has a Defensive Rating of 114.0 (29th in league) since the All-Star break. If they are looking for a blueprint to cool the Pistons, the Cavs should review the Nov. 18 game, when they held Detroit to a season low 31.2 FG percentage.
Worst Defensive Rating (since All-Star break)
30. Memphis Grizzlies – 114.1
29. Cleveland Cavaliers – 114.0
28. Los Angeles Lakers – 111.8
27. Philadelphia 76ers – 111.5
26. LA Clippers -- 111.4
Despite Cleveland’s recent inconsistent play, LeBron James has performed at a historic level. In James’ last eight games, he’s recorded seven double-doubles and four triple-doubles. He also leads the Cavs in points per game (26.1) and assists per game (8.9) while also averaging 8.3 rebounds per game and shooting 54 percent. If those numbers hold, the 14-year-forward will join Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 25 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and shoot 50 percent in a single season.
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson missed the first 21 games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. Once he returned, it took even longer to acclimate himself to game speed. With 45 games played, Jackson appears to be in midseason form. In his last five games, he is averaging 18.6 points per game and shooting 52.9 percent. Even more impressive? He’s connected on 10 of his last 20 3-point attempts. The Pistons tend to go as their point guard does, so he will need another efficient outing if Detroit wants to win for the fifth time in its last six games.
THE BUS DRIVER
There’s no disputing Kyrie Irving’s creativity, dribbling skill and ability to score as he’s scored 20 or more points in a career-high 15 consecutive games. He’s also averaging 28.0 points per game and 5.9 assists per game in that span. Jackson and the Pistons’ guards will have their hands full trying to keep him under wraps tonight.
HIGH “Q” RATING
J.R. Smith, one of the Cavs’ many 3-point shooters, will appear in his first game at Quicken Loans Arena since Dec. 20 (he was recovering from thumb injury). Smith has become a fan favorite in Ohio, so perhaps he may return the love by spearheading a 3-point barrage tonight. Cleveland needs 22 more 3-pointers to set a single-season franchise record (881) after setting the record (880) last season. This feat may seem improbable for some, but keep in mind the Cavs have connected on 20 or more 3-pointers in four games this season alone.