By Trent Balley
Things are really starting to look like they’re on the up and up for the Detroit Pistons. After defeating the Philadelphia 76ers in overtime on Tuesday, the Pistons have moved to 3-0 on the young season.
Interestingly enough, Detroit is currently home to the NBA’s leading scorer in points per game, as well as the leading rebounder in the same respect. Blake Griffin (36.3 points) and Andre Drummond (16.3 rebounds) have spearheaded the undefeated start for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015-16.
The Pistons take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are still searching for their first win of the season, on Thursday night. This will be the first of four matchups for the Central Division rivals, and these contests will feature an intriguing battle in the frontcourt.
At the center position, the Pistons’ Drummond is averaging a 16-point, 16.3 rebound double-double through three games this season. On the other hand, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson is averaging 9.3 PPG and 10.7 RPG, a near double-double as well.
Earlier this month, the Cavaliers “hosted” the Pistons in a preseason game at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University. Players met with student media, and Cleveland’s big men were complimentary of Detroit’s.
“Dre’s a hell of a rebounder,” Thompson said with a shrug. “He gets second chance opportunities, a double double guy in our league. It’s always fun, it’s a great matchup. We’re playing each other four times so it’s great competitive nature… it’s fun.”
Drummond led the NBA in rebounding for the 2015-16 season (14.8 RPG), as well as the most recent 2017-18 campaign (16 RPG). The opposing Thompson has averaged just under 9 RPG in NBA Finals games during the Cavaliers’ four consecutive runs from 2015 to 2018.
“He’s a really, really tough cover,” Love said regarding Drummond. “He’s so athletic. He’s pretty skilled for being his size, and you just have to do your work early: keep him out of the paint as much as you can. Before he crosses half court you’ve got to be aware of where he’s at at all times.”
Sliding down to power forward, these two ball clubs will feature a clashing of two All Stars at the position. For the Pistons, Griffin is coming off a career-high 50-point performance against the 76ers. The Cavaliers’ Kevin Love is sitting at 20.7 points per game to go along with 14.3 rebounds and four assists for the season. That scoring average, although just a three game sample, is his highest mark since he was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2013-14.
“Those guys play downhill,” Love said. “Blake’s looking for him (Drummond) on the lob, a lot like he did with DeAndre Jordan, and you just have to continue to do your work.”
The Pistons and Cavaliers will face off four times in 2018-19:
- October 25, 2018, 7:00 PM ET at Little Caesars Arena
- November 19, 2018, 7:00 PM ET at Little Caesars Arena
- March 2, 2019, 5:00 PM ET at Quicken Loans Arena
- March 18, 2019, 7:00 PM ET at Quicken Loans Arena