The Dallas Mavericks (8-23) will play their second-to-last home game of 2017 when they host the Pistons (17-13) on Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
From Nov. 18 to Dec. 4, Dallas played what was easily its best stretch of basketball this season, winning five out of eight games. Despite being short-handed in the time since, the team has struggled to maintain any semblance of consistency, dropping six of its past seven games. As a result, Rick Carlisle’s team has fallen to last place in the Western Conference.
The Pistons, meanwhile, seem to have righted the ship following a confounding seven-game losing streak that transpired in the the first two weeks of December. Detroit has won its past three contests, and even with that extended losing streak, they still hold the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
Here are three things to know when the Mavericks face-off against the Pistons:
Drummond making a leap
Maybe off-season nasal surgery really allowed Drummond to become a dominant force in the NBA. Last year, the 24 year-old put up solid numbers, averaging a double-double (13.5 points and rebounds) per game. There were major holes in his game too. Last season, he shot a historically low percentage from the free-throw line, and there were no signs that number would go up.
And while he’s always had tremendous potential, this season, the fifth-year pro has really put it all together. Through 30 games, Drummond is still averaging a double-double (13 points and 14 rebounds). In addition, he’s more than doubled his conversion percentage from the free-throw line. He’s even developed into a better passer, averaging four assists per game compared to just one-and-a-half last season.
Most important, the Pistons have improved from a non-playoff team to a team that currently occupies fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Avery Bradley out
Detroit’s starting shooting guard will remain out of the lineup for at least another week due to a groin problem. The Texas Longhorns’ product has struggled to stay healthy throughout his pro career, but when he’s in the line-up gives the Pistons a huge boost. So far this season, Bradley is second on the team scoring (16 ppg) and third in minutes per game (31).
Reports indicate that rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. could be close to returning to action. Until then, the Mavericks catch a break with Bradley being inactive for this game.
A streaky opponent
The Pistons have been a tough group to figure out this season. Stan Van Gundy’s club stormed out of the gate in the first three weeks of the season, compiling a 10-3 record. Then, this squad dropped three of its next four games, a stretch which was highlighted by a miserable 28-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.
In the 13 games since, Detroit won three in a row, somehow lost seven in a row, then won three in a row. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, this will be the Pistons only road game from Dec. 16 to Dec. 27.