Although the marquee matchups during their three-game trip are on the second and third stops, the Golden State Warriors shouldn't treat the opener like a tuneup.
The Detroit Pistons have been winning on their home floor with strong play on both ends of the court, and considering the Warriors' only stumbles have come on the road, they'll likely have their work cut out for them Saturday night at The Palace.
Golden State (37-3) follows this game with Monday's visit to Cleveland for the second rematch of last year's NBA Finals before closing the swing against Chicago on Wednesday. The Cavaliers and Bulls were a combined 31-7 at home entering Friday.
The Pistons (21-18) are no slouches in their own building, either, with a 13-6 mark that is among the better home records in the Eastern Conference. They had won four straight there prior to Tuesday's 109-99 loss to San Antonio.
They rank in the NBA's top 10 with 97.4 points allowed per home game, and with their 104.6 scoring average at The Palace, they have the league's fifth-highest home scoring differential at plus-7.2 points per game. Out on the road, it drops to minus-3.3.
Containing a team averaging a league-best 114.4 points is a significant challenge, and the Warriors are actually scoring more on the road (115.9) than at home (112.7).
Detroit has the benefit of a frontcourt that poses a matchup headache for Golden State, which is 28th in the league with an average of 46.1 points allowed in the paint. The Pistons are sixth with 44.9 inside points per game, and it bears mentioning that they scored 58 against an NBA-best Spurs defense allowing an average of 39.8.
That inside point total becomes more eye-opening when you factor in that starting forwards Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova were held to 10 total points, which is nearly 15 below their combined season average.
The pair bounced back by teaming for 29 points in Thursday's 103-101 road loss to Memphis to help offset a quiet night for Andre Drummond, who had 11 with 11 rebounds.
The Pistons shot 51.4 percent and hit 15 3-pointers, but Mario Chalmers nailed an off-balance 19-footer with 0.8 seconds left after Detroit's 23-2 run in the fourth.
"That's very tough," coach Stan Van Gundy said of Chalmers' winning shot. "We just couldn't finish. Couldn't get stops."
Morris scored 15 and Drummond had 14 with 15 rebounds in a 109-95 loss at Golden State on Nov. 9 in which Detroit's perimeter play was a nice complement to its 52 points in the paint. Reggie Jackson and Stanley Johnson each scored 20 and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 15 while helping limit Stephen Curry to 22.
Curry was unstoppable Wednesday with 20 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter at Denver, but he lost the ball in the closing moments of a 112-110 loss. Golden State quickly bounced back Thursday with a 116-98 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Curry scored 26 with his first eight baskets coming from long range. His only other bucket came on a breakaway dunk that left him wobbly - and may have put a scare into interim coach Luke Walton after the guard recently missed time with a leg injury.
"I still wish he would lay all those up," Walton said.
After beating Kobe Bryant in his final visit to Oracle Arena, Curry quickly spoke to the retiring Lakers star.
"He told us to chase history, keep doing what we're doing," said Curry, whose team moved past the halfway point of catching the 72-win Bulls in 1995-96.
Golden State is looking to tie a franchise record with its 10th straight win in this series. The Warriors set that mark from 1970-72.