Record: 48-10 (45-13 Pythagorean), top seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 8-2
Offensive Rating: 112.9 (2nd in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 103.1 (3rd in the NBA)
Lakers and the Playoffs: The win against Golden State kept the status quo: Utah and Sacramento remain 1.5 games back after their wins last night (thanks for the help, Clips).
Lamar The Olympian. Part Deux: Michael Redd and Rashard Lewis have turned down invitations to play for USA Basketball for the next three years, so Odom is getting an invite. Odom (and Iverson) played well last time around, so I can live with that. But not having Redd is a big loss.
What makes the Pistons so good: Letâ€™s try to look past the true but simplistic â€œthey play as a teamâ€ idea here.
The key to their offense is they donâ€™t turn the ball over â€” just 13% of their possessions end in a turnover (next is Phoenix at 14.3%, the Lakers are at 15.6%). This is huge because they have far fewer â€œempty tripsâ€ and they are good shooting team â€” 49.5% (eFG%) as a team, eighth in the league. Chauncey Billups is a key to this â€” he averages 9.6 assists and just 2.3 turnovers per 40 minutes.
Billups is having an incredibly good season â€” a true shooting percentage of 60.2%, a PER of 23.8 and a team high +12 per 48 minutes. Richard Hamilton is a good fit with him, shooting 51.7% (eFG%) on the season. Ben Wallace knows his role â€” he scores just 8.5 points per 40 minutes but pulls down 20.1% of the rebounds when he is on the floor, second best in the league (think about that, one in five rebounds is his). And the list of good players goes on and on.
Another offensive key is that while the starting five is balanced, they get efficient production off he bench. Antonio McDyess comes in and grabs an impressive 13.7% of the rebounds while Wallace rests. Little discussed Maurice Evans is shooting 53.7% on the season. It goes on and on.
On defense, one key is they donâ€™t foul (which could prove troublesome for Kobe). They lead the league in fewest number of free throws given up per possession. Oh, the other thing is teams only shoot 46.6% (eFG%) against them, fourth best in the league.
One more thing to watch on defense, much like San Antonio youâ€™ll see a pretty traditional defensive style. No doubling out by the half court line on Kobe â€” theyâ€™ll trust their players (Prince mostly, I would guess) and their rotations. That also means they donâ€™t leave the other guys open shots should slow them.
The Lakers coming in: Lots of heart from Kobe last night, who looked like I used to on Saturday mornings in college (my problems were self-inflicted, however). He had 42 points, was a team-high +22 and a true shooting % of 53.8%. Cook was +14, Odom was less than impressive.
So far this season, the Lakers are 4-10 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Keys to a Laker win: One weakness, the Pistons give up a surprisingly high percentage of offensive rebounds (29.5% of missed shots, 26th in the league) so the Lakers need to crash the glass and try to get some putbacks.
The weakest defensive spot for the Pistons, and it has been a weakness, is the four. If the Lakers are to have any chance, Cook and Odom will have to have big, big nights. Plus Kobe is going to have to have the energy to draw doubles earlier and, hopefully, throw off the Piston rotations.
This is the last game of a road trip, and the second game of a back to back, a time when some teams let down. Back to backs and road trips can be especially hard on the Pistons because their 5 starters account for 75.6% of the team’s minutes (for comparison, the current Laker starting five has accounted for 66.5% of the team’s minutes).
They can be beat, even Atlanta did it. Now, would I bet on a Laker winâ€¦.