Dwight Howard may return today as the Lakers visit the Detroit Pistons. The Lakers were able to earn their first road win of 2013 with a win against Minnesota the other night. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to win another one tonight against a very young and inexperienced Pistons team. But as we’ve seen, the Lakers have had a tough time beating anyone on the road so we can hardly guarantee a win. Let’s see how the Pistons stack up against the Lakers.
Frontcourt: The Pistons have two young big men who have the potential to develop into a very formidable duo. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are two very promising post players. Monroe is leading the Pistons in scoring (15.7), rebounds (9.3) and steals (1.3). The one aspect of his game where he needs the most improvement is his defense. He’s only managing 0.6 blocks per game which is pretty low for a 6’11’ center. With 1.6 blocks in 20 minutes per game, Drummond has shown advanced defensive instincts for a player of his age.
In limited minutes Drummond is also chipping in 7.5 points and 7.6 boards per game. His PER of 22.78 is the best in the Pistons front court. It’s only a matter of time until Drummond is inserted into the starting lineup. Maxiell owns the starting power forward spot for now. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol will need to be physical and keep Drummond from snatching offensive rebounds. Mainstay Tayshaun Prince was recently traded which has allowed Singler to slide into the three spot. Singler’s performance has been up and down throughout the season which is not uncommon for rookies.
Backcourt: It remains to be seen if Jose Calderon’s visa issues will clear so he can play tonight, but if he is able, he will start at the point. The Pistons recently acquired Calderon in a three-team trade and his presence will allow Brandon Knight to slide over to his natural position of shooting guard. Calderon is a naturally gifted passer who has averaged 7.2 assists over his seven year career. He’s also been an absolute thorn in the Lakers’ side and went off for twenty two points and nine assists against the Lakers last month.
Knight, a second year player out of Kentucky, should be comfortable playing the two since he’s more of a shooter than a passer. He’s the second highest scorer on the team with 14 ppg and leads the team with 1.7 three pointers per game. Backup point guard Will Bynum can score in bunches so he’ll need to be guarded closely. Stuckey has struggled this season averaging just 11.4 points on 38.6% shooting. Of the Pistons’ four guards, Stuckey is the weakest link.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Play Through Droughts: The Lakers have been prone to fall into offensive funks during the game. When this happens the Lakers needs to fall back on their defense and move the ball around on offense. Also, the Lakers need to hang tough and not let their energy level drop. We’ve seen the Lakers give up when the opposing team’s make runs and it will be key for them to be resilient if they want to turn the corner for good.
Limit Second Chance Opportunities: The Pistons are a very good offensive rebounding team, led by the efforts of Drummond who reels in three offensive boards per night. The Lakers may be without D12 and if that is the case then Gasol will need to body up. Gasol is not a particularly physical player so he’ll need to make a conscious effort to box out the Pistons’ bigs. Earl Clark has been a nice surprise for the Lakers this season and his athleticism and hustle is exactly what they need. Clark will also have to do his part to secure defensive rebounds.
Close Strong: The Lakers have had trouble closing out games on the road. The loss to Phoenix is a prime example of the Lakers problems. Tonight the Lakers will need to play better in the 4th quarter and finish strong regardless of the score. It doesn’t matter if the Lakers are up by twenty or down by ten, they need to play harder and execute better in the closing twelve minutes.
Los Angeles Lakers (21-26) at Detroit Pistons (18-29)
10:00 AM PST, February 3, 2013
The Palace of Auburn Hills, Auburn Hills, Michigan
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Pistons Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Brandon Knight
SF: Kyle Singler
PF: Jason Maxiell
C: Greg Monroe
Key Reserves: FC: Andre Drummond SG: Rodney Stuckey PG: Will Bynum