Clippers at Pistons preview
Former Central Michigan star Chris Kaman is the team’s leading scorer at 19.8 per game, but has cooled off after a hot start to the season. Kaman has failed to score 20 or more points in the Clippers’ last five games, averaging 14.4 points, after scoring 20 or more in 9 of their first 11 games and averaging 22.2 points.
Kaman, who is also averaging 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks, has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors and there are a lot of Pistons fans that would like to see the big man come home to Michigan.
Part of the reason Kaman is possibly available is Marcus Camby (8.3 points, 10.0 rebounds). Camby is coming off his best game of the season, a 15-point, 21-rebound effort against the Pacers.
Shooting guard Eric Gordon (17.3 points) returned on Wednesday from a groin injury that kept him sidelined for eight games. Gordon came off the bench and scored just six points on 2 for 7 shooting.
Baron Davis (15.5 points, 6.9 assists, 1.94 steals) is having another solid season, but is not having the impact the Clippers hoped for when they singed him to a 5-year $65 million before last season.
Third-year small forward Al Thorton (12.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) is a young and talented player for L.A., but has struggled to stay consistent this season. Rasual Butler (9.7 points) has been starting while Gordon was out, but it’s unclear who will get the start on Friday.
Key matchup — Pistons’ Rodney Stuckey vs. Clippers Baron Davis: With Richard Hamilton (ankle), Tayshaun Prince (back) and Ben Gordon (ankle) all sidelined, the scoring load is on Stuckey’s shoulders. Stuckey is just one of three healthy Pistons players averaging more than five points a game, with the other two being Will Bynum and Charlie Villanueva. Stuckey scored 25 against Cleveland Wednesday, but had no assists. He will have to find that balance of looking for his own shot and getting his teammates involved.
“I’m just going to play within myself,” Stuckey said. “I’m not going to try and go out there and do too much. We still have a lot of guys on this team that can score. There is probably going to be some times where I’m more aggressive than I usually am, but I’m just going to try and play my game.”
Defending Davis will also have to be a priority as Davis has proved he can go off at any point. Stuckey will likely start on Davis, but also defend other positions like he has for most of the season.
The skinny — The Pistons (5-10) are short-handed, but no one is going to feel sorry for them or remember that when the season is over. Detroit has to try and stop the bleeding against the Clippers, and end its six-game losing streak, especially with Atlanta (11-4) coming to The Palace on Sunday.
It’s a long season, but Detroit can’t afford to dig itself too deep of a hole while it gets healthy. The Pistons have to win games like Friday’s to keep pace in the East and make the playoffs, especially since it’s still unclear when any of the injured players will return.
“We know the Clippers are a good team individually, hopefully they don’t play as a team tonight,” Stuckey said. “Defense is going to be key for us tonight.”
Detroit will likely need a big game out of Charlie Villanueva to be the Clippers, but Villanueva will have a combination of Camby and Kaman defending him and both are solid defenders.
Austin Daye will start in place of Ben Gordon. The 6-foot-11 rookie will give the Pistons a very tall and long starting lineup with 6-10 Jonas Jerebko, 6-11 Villanueva, 6-9 Ben Wallace and 6-5 Stuckey the other starters.
“We’re a young team,” Stuckey said. “We got a lot of players that can play different positions. Tonight is going to be a good night four our young guys, a good test for DaJuan (Summers) and Austin.”