By Neal Doshi (’17)
Detroit Pistons vs Orlando Magic (Sunday, December 4th): The Orlando Magic have been a complete enigma this season, losing many games by a considerable margin while beating contending teams (i.e. Oklahoma City and San Antonio) on the road. However, neither the outcome of the game nor the story of Tobias Harris facing his former team is the tale of this contest. Rather, the spotlight will be on starting point guard Reggie Jackson, since this game is the likely return date for the Boston College alum after being medically cleared to play this past Monday. Jackson has not suited up at all this season after experiencing knee tendinitis and a thumb injury in September. This matchup should offer as a relatively easy test for Jackson’s debut, as the Magic are one of the worst perimeter shooting and defending teams in the NBA. But questions still remain: Will Reggie pick up where he left off from a superb 2015-16 campaign, or show signs of rust from his long absence?
Detroit Pistons at Charlotte Hornets (Wednesday, December 7th): This will have been the second time the Pistons and Hornets square off in less than ten days, and there is a lot to carry over into this matchup from the previous one. Marvin Williams could be available after missing a week with a knee injury, possibly neutralizing Tobias Harris’ presence. After being ejected in the second quarter in Detroit’s most recent visit to Charlotte by virtue of a controversial foul call, Andre Drummond looks to wreck havoc on the Hornets’ frontline and respond with a monster game. Despite that loss of the 2016 All-Star, Detroit still managed to pull off a commanding 112-89 victory in Buzz City, due mainly to Stan Van Gundy’s masterful strategy of staggering minutes between Jon Leuer and Aron Baynes to replace Drummond’s production. These two clubs are quite evenly-matched, but history has shown that any team can pull away on any given night. So, will this night give fans some close competition, or will the contest’s outcome be nearly decided before the fourth quarter even begins?
Detroit Pistons vs Indiana Pacers (Saturday, December 17th): These long-time central division rivals will face off for the first time this season at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Both teams have made significant upgrades on paper, but have failed to demonstrate that improvement in the win-loss column. The Pacers have struggled as a team with Jeff Teague’s slow start and Paul George’s injury troubles, while the Pistons have clearly missed Reggie Jackson throughout the first quarter of the season. Despite these negatives, there are still many bright spots to be taken into account for both of these units. Myles Turner and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have both taken significant strides for Indiana and Detroit respectively, keeping their teams in playoff contention. But still, there is a long way to go for both the Pacers and Pistons to live up to the potential they each have. With both teams facing similar expectations to start the year, will either club finally turn things around by the time this game rolls around?
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors (Friday, December 23rd): Last season, the Golden State Warriors finished 73-9 to end the regular season, with one of those nine losses coming courtesy of the Detroit Pistons. On Ben Wallace’s jersey retirement night, the Pistons managed to blow out a fully healthy Warriors team by 18 points. One year later, it is unlikely that Golden State forgot about that catastrophe, and the Dubs will look to be on the right side of a similar blowout. This also marks Kevin Durant’s first game as a Warrior against former teammate Reggie Jackson, boosting more animosity to the contest. Andre Drummond is matched up with the Warriors’ weakest position at center, and the Pistons’ bench is much deeper than that of the former Western Conference champs, adding to the intriguing storyline. However, the Warriors still boast four All-Stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, and could alternate their playing time to push the Pistons tough throughout the entire game. There is no doubt that after last year’s debacle, Golden State is out for revenge. Will the Warriors send a message after that January defeat, or will the Pistons continue to defend their home court at the Palace of Auburn Hills?
Detroit Pistons vs Cleveland Cavaliers (Monday, December 26th): Though they have already had their playoff rematch earlier in the season, both teams should be significantly better as JR Smith and Reggie Jackson will have had adequate time to settle into their respective roles for Cleveland and Detroit respectively. The Cavaliers have shown no signs of relinquishing their title as World Champions thanks to the evident chemistry improvements seen in their ‘Big Three’ (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). The Pistons, however, fought hard against the Cavs in every game last year, winning three out of their four regular season meetings and grittily battling the eventual NBA champions in their first round matchup. The Stanley Johnson-LeBron James feud should dominate the headlines, but the true story is the clash between the kings of the East and one of the conference’s young risers. This
Day-After-Christmas game should be a gift for NBA fans and media alike, but the question lingers: Will the Pistons pick up right where they left off against the Cavaliers, now with both teams at relatively full strength?