[Author's note: Much of this was written before Detroit's thrilling win in San Antonio last night, therefore the stats are not entirely accurate anymore.]
What has Detroit done lately?
Six games ago, the Pistons waived Josh Smith, their troubled and inefficient forward. Since then, they rattled off six consecutive wins. This includes a victory in San Antonio Tuesday night in which the Pistons trailed by 18 points in the first half. They came back to take the lead in the second half of the game only to see it evaporate. From there, Detroit traded buckets with the Spurs until, with time running out, Brandon Jennings connected on a driving layup with .1 left on the clock, giving the Pistons a 105-104 win.
Which team stat might determine the game?
Let's focus on two stats: rebounding and 3-point shooting. The Pistons have the second lowest field goal percentage in the league; as such they are rather adept at offensive rebounding. In fact, they are fifth in the NBA in that particular category and pull down 26.7 percent of available offensive rebounds. Defensively, Detroit also grabs 75.5 percent of rebounds on the other end of the floor. That mark is good for twelfth in the league.
Dallas, as is known, isn't a great rebounding team. The Mavericks collect just 72 percent of available defensive rebounds, ranking them second to last. This factor could be troublesome with Detroit's aforementioned offensive rebounding skill. Tyson Chandler will have his work cut out for him trying to keep the likes of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe off the glass.
With Chandler preoccupied, Dallas' outside shooting is going to have to step up. The Mavs chunk up 26.7 3-point attempts and connect on 9.7 of those shots. Both of these stats are in the top five. Beyond that, Dallas' perimeter defense, though improved with the addition of Rajon Rondo, still allows opponents to shoot an unseemly percentage from behind the arc.
Luckily for the Mavs, Detroit is a mediocre 3-point shooting team. However, the Pistons' perimeter defense is better than the Mavericks', though they are still not remarkable. With Dallas' heavy reliance on the 3-point shot in their 4-out offense, they need to weaken Detroit's defense along the arc as the scrum down low should limit the Mavs' inside scoring.
What's the biggest matchup to watch?
Again, there are two areas to watch. The first, briefly mentioned above, is between Chandler and Drummond. It should be one of the best matchups of the year for Chandler as Drummond possesses prowess on both sides of the ball.
The other matchup should be no less thrilling. Brandon Jennings has been playing well since the departure of Josh Smith. He averaged 21.6 points in the five games following the waiving of Smith. He did this on 55.8 percent shooting from the field and an astounding 48.6 percent shooting from downtown. Jennings has also dished out 5.6 assists, grabbed three rebounds, and logged 1.4 steals during that span.
Facing him will be Rondo. There has recently been much made about Rondo's comments about defense. In reality, they were likely nothing more than media gamesmanship. Nonetheless, Dallas' starting point guard has shown astute defensive acumen. In his nine games with the Mavericks, Rondo has posted a defensive rating of 101. While tasked with slowing Jennings for much of the game, Jennings will also have to contend with Rondo.
Rajon is shooting 41.8 percent from the floor and 44.4 percent from behind the arc. Of course, Rondo's brilliance doesn't just show up in the box score. His basketball IQ is leagues beyond the majority of players in the NBA. He should be able to outthink and out maneuver Jennings and the trappings of Detroit's defense.
What do the Mavs need to do to be successful against Detroit?
Despite the Pistons' recent resurgence, the Mavericks are still the superior team. They have the best offense in the league and a steadily improving defense. Dallas is also entering the game after a day of rest while the Pistons played in San Antonio Tuesday night. All signs point to a schedule loss for Detroit but the Mavs have to slow down Drummond, Jennings, and whoever else might get a hot hand. It's unlikely that the Mavs win the rebounding battle but their superior shooting should win the day. However, the Pistons are playing with a renewed passion and will not give in, their gutsy win in San Antonio proves that.
It would also help if Dirk has a strong outing. He needs to string a few of those together, why not start now? If he does we can all dance together...much like this: