1. The Suddenly Frisky Pistons: After an 0-8 start, the Pistons have rebounded to go 5-3 over their past eight. This run began with an 18-point road win over the Sixers and also includes a 20-point win over Boston and, most recently, a 40-point win — no typo! — over the Suns. So as the third “bad” Eastern Conference team the Grizzlies will have faced at FedExForum this week, the Pistons come in tonight in better shape than the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors did.
2. Present and Future in the Paint: With Pau Gasol's recent struggles in Laker Land, the Grizzlies can reasonably claim to have the best frontcourt tandem in the NBA with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. But the Pistons might be able to lay legitimate claim to having the most promising young frontcourt tandem in the league in 22-year-old Greg Monroe and 19-year-old rookie Andre Drummond.
Drummond's offense is still erratic and he's still coming off the bench, but he's confirmed his mammoth potential already and, over the past five games, has been a presence, averaging 8.5 rebounds and 2 blocks in about 20 minutes a night. Monroe — a longtime favorite that I really wanted the Grizzlies to get with the pick that became Hasheem Thabeet, only Monroe had the gall to stay in school that summer — has firmly established himself as an All-Star-level talent in his third pro season, averaging 17 points, 9 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Here at Beyond the Arc, we tend to favor skilled big men over other types of players, so a Marc Gasol-Greg Monroe match-up is something to savor.
3. Cooling Off Detroit's Shooters: One of the things driving Detroit's recent emergence is improved outside shooting around Monroe. Second-year point guard Brandon Knight has averaged 20.5 points over his past four games while shooting 12-19 from long-range. Rookie Kyle Singler, recently promoted to the starting lineup, has averaged 14.7 points over his past three while shooting 6-10 from three. And stretch forward Charlie Villanueva has moved back into the rotation of late, shooting 9-16 from three over the past three games. The Grizzlies were able to pull away from Cleveland and Toronto when they turned up the defensive intensity. Whether Detroit's outside shooters can stay hot will determine whether the Pistons will have a chance to steal this one.
Final note: I'm going to tonight's game in civilian mode, so I won't be tweeting during the game. I will try to have an abbreviated postgame notebook up sometime later tonight.