The Pistons have drawn the new, James Harden-driven Houston Rockets for their home opener tonight and while the term must win has become cliche´, tonight's game might be just that. After the Rockets, the Pistons have been dealt a 6-game west coast road-trip that includes bouts with the Lakers, Nuggets and Thunder. The Pistons were 7-26 on road last season, and an opening night win at home could mean big things for the mindset of Detroit's young core. It might also be the difference between coming out of the road-trip showing shades of last season's 1-6 start or posting an early season .500 mark.
What will get the Pistons through the early season road swing with a respectable record is whether or not they can sustain quality defensive sets for 48 minutes. Winless on the road this preseason, Lawrence Frank saw his team give up an average of 97.5 points per game, and losing each road contest by an average of 17.5 points per game. With the exception of the Toronto game, every road loss was a blowout. But with Houston entrusting their point guard duties to the turnover-happy Jeremy Lin, the opening night match-up might be just what the Pistons need to boost their defensive confidence before heading out on the road.
Houston is not a good team and is unlikely to make the playoffs this season. Outside of the Houston area, James Harden has heard nothing but doubt in regards to his ability to be the go-to-guy. Knowing his team is not a title contender, Harden may use this season to single-handedly prove his critics wrong. If Lin struggles to move the ball around early the Pistons may get the best Halloween treat possible—The James Harden Show. Harden is a great scorer, but if the Pistons can close off every other option and force Harden to do all the heavy lifting on offense, then the Pistons will probably only need around 85 points to win. Scoring only 85 points wouldn't say a lot about the Pistons offense, but it might mean that Lawrence Frank and the Pistons have figured out an early season identity for their west coast swing.Tags: Basketball, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Lawrence Frank, NBA, Opening Night