Last spring, there was an unexpectedly entertaining playoff series between the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed and its No. 8 seed. Sure, the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the Detroit Pistons, but most of the games were closely contested and Detroit made Cleveland work for its victories.
There’s a possibility the 43-22 Cavs and the 33-33 Pistons could face off again in the first round of the postseason. Cleveland is the first seed and Detroit is seventh, but the standings could shuffle around a bit in the next month.
The two squads meet in Detroit today for their fourth and final head-to-head matchup of the season (7 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBATV). The Pistons have won two of the three contests, but one of those wins came with LeBron James resting for the Cavs.
Detroit has played well recently and Cleveland has slipped a bit. Let’s ask a few questions that could determine the outcome of this game and then make some betting predictions and picks for the contest.
Which of the Cavs Can Contain Andre Drummond Inside?
Drummond’s season for Detroit in 2016-17 has been a bit of a disappointment. The 23-year-old center hasn’t shown the offensive development many expected out of him and his defensive impact has been inconsistent. He’s still a major load in the paint, though.
In the Pistons’ win over the Cavs last Thursday, Drummond went for 20 points and 16 rebounds (seven offensive) on 10-of-13 shooting. He limited counterpart Tristan Thompson to a mere four points and four rebounds on 2-of-5 shooting.
With Andrew Bogut out for the year and Kevin Love still on the mend, Cleveland is quite weak on the interior. Thompson is a strong rebounder, but he can’t do everything himself. Most players are not intimidated by his rim protection either. It’s not a surprise that the Houston Rockets had 20 offensive rebounds and 50 points in the paint against the Cavs on Sunday.
The Cavs need to keep Drummond from controlling the interior again.
Will the Pistons Stay Close in the Three-Point Battle?
The single biggest factor that separates these teams (besides LeBron James) is three-point shooting. The Cavs are great at draining long bombs and the Pistons are not.
On the season, Cleveland is second in the NBA in both made threes per game (13.2) and three-point percentage (38.9). Detroit ranks third-last in long-distances makes per contest (7.8) and fourth-last in three-point percentage (33.4).
Admittedly, this does ignore both teams’ abilities in stopping the three. The Pistons are better at keeping opponents’ attempts and success rate from downtown in check than the Cavs. Detroit’s perimeter defender will need to be especially active today.
The Pistons will certainly have an uphill battle ahead of them if the Cavs score an extra 16 points on three-pointers, which is the difference in the two teams’ averages. Detroit will do well if it keeps its disadvantage in the three-point battle under control.
Is Fringe All-Star Reggie Jackson Back?
This has been a poor season overall for the Pistons’ Jackson, who played close to an All-Star level last season. The 26-year-old point guard has been mostly fantastic of late, though, and he’ll need to sustain that level of play against Kyrie Irving to make that matchup somewhat of a stalemate.
If you take out a 1-of-8 stinker against the Indiana Pacers last Wednesday, Jackson’s per-36 minute numbers from the last five games are as follows: 26.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists with a 69.0 true-shooting percentage.
Jackson is a dynamic penetrator when on his game. If he plays well, the Pistons’ offense becomes much more dynamic.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs Detroit Pistons Picks & Betting Predictions
The Pistons have been playing better than record recently (12-6 since the beginning of February), and the Cavs have been doing the opposite (3-6 in their last nine games). Cleveland will be eager for revenge, but it still will be on the road and isn’t likely to beat Detroit by much. There’s still that Andre Drummond matchup that I’m nervous about, too. This is our preview’s predictions:
- Cleveland are favored by eight points with the bookies. That seems like a bit too much respect toward LeBron James, so I would pick Detroit +8pts to cover the spread @ best odds of -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 for the same spread with Bovada and 5Dimes.
- The total points over-under for this game is around 215pts. I’m going to go with the under, because I think Andre Drummond’s relentless offensive rebounding to keep possessions alive will slow down the pace of this game. I also think Detroit’s perimeter guys will do an excellent job limiting Cleveland from three-point range. Go under 215pts @ -115 odds with BetOnline. It is under 214.5pts at -110 with MyBookie and 5Dimes.