Cavaliers vs. Pistons Game Preview: Cavs Return Home to Host Underachieving Pistons

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(Cleveland, OH) – After splitting their two games played in Florida against the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, the Cleveland Cavaliers (18-11) return home to host the struggling Detroit Pistons (6-23), currently fifth in the Central Division. The game is slated to tip off on Sunday, December 28 shortly after 4:30 pm ET at Quicken Loans Arena.

Following a subpar performance in a 101-91 Christmas Day loss in Miami against the Heat, the Cavs bounced back on Friday to rally past the Orlando Magic for a 98-89 victory despite Kyrie Irving being inactive with a bruised left knee. LeBron James took over the game against the Magic, scoring 15 of his 30 total points in the fourth quarter.

In a surprising move on Friday against the Magic, Cavaliers head coach David Blatt kept all-star Kevin Love on the bench throughout the entire fourth quarter and stuck with Tristan Thompson. Although Love scored 22 points in the first three quarters, Thompson was given the playing time and the move paid off since he was doing such a great job defensively on Magic center Nikola Vucevic.

“The way that Orlando was playing, they didn’t make a particular substitution and we were just matched up so well defensively, we decided to not to go with it,” Blatt said about not putting Love in the game. “Certainly to Kevin’s credit, he actually kind of recognized it and supported that.”

Despite having a pretty talented roster, even after the waiving of forward Josh Smith, the Pistons possess one of the worst records in the NBA at this point in the season. Detroit has a starting lineup that consists of four recent top-10 draft picks with point guard Brandon Jennings, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, power forward Greg Monroe and center Andre Drummond.

Since the departure of Josh Smith to the Houston Rockets, the Pistons bolstered the depth on their bench and three-point shooting by acquiring forward Anthony Tolliver from the Phoenix Suns for forward Tony Mitchell.

“He’s always been a guy we’ve liked,” said Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy on the acquisition of Tolliver. “We knew a lot about him as a person. He’s a high-character guy who can stretch the floor out and his contract is a great value contract. We were very lucky that that one sort of fell in our lap and we had the opportunity to do that.”

The move makes sense, considering Tolliver was not getting playing time with the Phoenix Suns and the Pistons are currently ranked 23rd in the NBA in terms of three-point percentage.

Keys to the Game:

1. Efficiency at the Free Throw Line

After they struggled mightily against the Heat from the foul line (21 of 33), the Cavs rebounded quite nicely to sink 24 of 26 free throw attempts against the Magic. The Cavs must build on their performance in Orlando in order to take advantage of the Pistons, considering Detroit is the second-worst team in the NBA in free throw percentage at 68.6%.

2. The Pistons are much more talented than their 6-23 record indicates

After not winning a home game since November 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pistons were able to beat the Indiana Pacers 119-109 at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday night. Detroit will obviously be hungry for another victory, as they are 1-0 since the team waived Josh Smith. Despite having an extremely rough month of December in which he’s shooting 29.8% from the field, Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings is a player that is highly capable of putting up big numbers if the Cavs’ defense falls asleep against him.

3. One Game at a Time

The Cavs need to put all their focus into playing a solid all-around basketball game at home against the Pistons, without looking ahead to their showdown with the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. Detroit is highly capable of sneaking up on Cleveland and giving them a tough game, as the Cavs have had their share of going very flat on offense during recent games.

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Andrew Salmi is a recent graduate of California State University, Fullerton after he previously attended Arizona State University. He is proud to be a staff writer for Cavaliers Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewsalmi.