The Thunder are fighting for playoff positioning while the Pistons are fighting for lottery positioning.
To say the Thunder’s rebuild has gone better than the Pistons so far would be an understatement. The Pistons are capping off another bottom 5 finish while the Thunder find themselves in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Granted, the Thunder did have more assets to trade to start their rebuild, but the fact they find themselves in their current position is quite impressive.
The Pistons have no incentive to win this game while the Thunder have every reason to win, so I wouldn’t expect anything crazy like the Thunder resting a bunch of players.
The Pistons have locked themselves into top 3 lottery odds, so wins down the stretch will only add the possibility of falling further in the draft in the event somebody moves up, but I don’t think that is reason enough for the Pistons to pull off intentional tanking moves.
I expect the Pistons to play hard like they did against Milwaukee on Monday, and the Thunder will also be playing hard to keep themselves in the playoffs.
Where: Paycom Center in Oklahoma City, OK
When: Wednesday, March 29 at 8 pm EST
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Thunder (-11)
As I said above, I don’t anticipate any Thunder players sitting out. They are a better team than the Pistons, but I don’t think this will be an easy win for them without a fully healthy team. The Bucks managed to win while short-handed on Monday, but they are the best team in the NBA.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander may not play, but given the fact that they just lost to the Hornets last night without him, I think there is a high probability that he plays. He is the main reason the Thunder are where they are at this season as he has arguably been a top 10 player. He is currently 4th in the NBA in scoring and has been unguardable for most of the season.
The last time these two teams played back in early November, the Pistons actually came out on top, but Shai still had 33 points. The Pistons simply do not have any backcourt defenders that can slow him down.
Although Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been the driving force for the Thunder’s success this season, it has been the improvement of the young players around him that has put the Thunder in their current position. Josh Giddey has become a triple-double threat every night and Jalen William has rapidly improved over the last few months.
If everybody didn’t all collectively declare Paolo Banchero the Rookie of the Year after the first month of the season, Williams would have a legit shot at the award.
The counting stats are not crazy for the season, but he is shooting 52 percent from the field as a rookie on the wing and has been the Thunder’s number 2 scorer over the last couple months. Williams’ rise to the number 2 scorer behind Shai has coincided with The Thunder’s climb up the standings.
Another rookie who has been impressive the last few months is Jaden Ivey. He is coming off the best game of his career on Monday where he scored 32 points, dished out 8 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds against the Milwaukee Bucks . The improvements he has made during the season, just like Jalen Williams, have been impressive and it will be fun to watch these two go at it.
An underrated thing to keep an eye on is that Killian Hayes had one of his highest-scoring games in his career last season against the Thunder towards the end of the season. He only had 5 points in the last matchup, but maybe he will have another big game in another late-season game against the Thunder
The Pistons have already proven they can beat the Thunder this season by letting Shai cook and shutting down everybody else. That is what will have to happen again if they want to pull off this win, as I do not foresee them being able to slow down Shai.
Detroit Pistons (16-59): Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman
Oklahoma City Thunder (37-39); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Jaylen Williams
Question of the Day
Since the Pistons seem committed to the two big lineup the rest of the season, will we see James Wiseman and Jalen Duren start a game together before the end of the season?