Records: Lakers 7-3 Pistons 5-5
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 104.5 (18th in league), Pistons 106.8 (14th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 102.5 (10th in league) Pistons 104.7 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Pistons: Rodney Stuckey , Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace, Jonas Jerebko
The Lakers Coming in: Let me do my best Hawkeye impersonation with today’s M*A*S*H* update (picture me with a martini glass filled with bathtub gin): Luke Walton is out six week with a pinched nerve in his back. This hurts our depth — to me Walton is a solid NBA player. He is not spectacular, but he does one thing very well (pass, the second unit’s motion is much better with him in there) and he is a decent shooter and can defend bigger bodied players pretty well. From where I sit he is what he is paid — right at the league average. But he fits the Lakers system well and fits well in the locker room. Those aren’t little things. With him out, the second unit needs to work on moving and passing more.
Kobe Bryant practiced yesterday and will play tonight, a surprise to… nobody. This is Kobe. Pau Gasol also practiced yesterday and may return against the Bulls Thursday or maybe Sunday. Although, at this point until I see him on the court I’m not betting on anything.
On a separate note, Kevin Ding had the best article I’ve read so far this season on the Lakers start and issues.
They have not held themselves to a gold standard from within. They are not particularly motivated and they are not actively seeking opportunities to make immediate improvement.
There is Pau Gasol’s injury return at some point, there is Ron Artest’s full indoctrination coming and there is plenty of time. True, true and true. No question that the Lakers can be the NBA’s best team at the end, because the standings now certainly can’t be believed with paper-thin Phoenix lording above all others.
The point is that that the Lakers haven’t been committed to ongoing excellence right now – or even committed to playing offense from the inside out. Whether you call it mental weakness or complacency or human nature, it has already happened.
Along those same lines, the Brothers K get Fisher talking about the Lakers offensive woes and get some good insight.
The Pistons Coming in: Kwame Brown’s back in town. I just dropped a ball in honor of his return.
As banged up as the Lakers are, the Pistons have it worse. Tayshaun Prince is out for a while with a ruptured disc in his back, and Rip Hamilton will miss the game (and many more) with a sprained ankle.
This Piston team is dramatically different looking than last year’s version. There is the addition by subtraction by ditching Allen Iverson. Then they went out and spent $85 million on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva — both of whom have played well so far. Maybe not $85 million well, but well. Gordon is giving the Pistons a solid 22 points a game with a 57% True Shooting Percentage. Villanueva is giving them 17 points a game at the same shooting percentage, but just four rebounds a contest.
Dumars has taken a lot of heat for what he spent on those two, but to me it looks like he was trying to build a team in the mode of 2004 — a lot of good players that mesh instead of one great one. It just becomes much harder to make that work with Prince and Hamilton out, now you are asking Gordon and Villanueva to carry the load. That is a lot for them.
Rodney Stuckey handles the ball at the point, and he is a player I just enjoy watching. That said, he is not now nor has he ever been a great shooter, which is one reason the fans love Will Bynum off the bench, that and his numbers are just better across the board. Bynum is much more the type of player that gives the Lakers fits, he is very quick and he is their spark plug. And, he is like Shannon Brown in that he comes off the bench but is the best dunker on his team.
One other thing — Ben Wallace is playing like the Ben Wallace that was good in Detroit the first time around. Don’t think he’s just a pushover (like he was last year).
Also, stats fans, there is an interesting article over at Hoopdata where they modify PER to better account for assisted field goals. This APER likes Kobe better, by the way.
Keys to game: While we do a lot of Xs and Os on this site, I think tonight is really more about focus, passion and execution. The Lakers have pretty much been sleepwalking lately — maybe it’s a title hangover, maybe it’s a lot of things, it doesn’t matter what it is. The Lakers need to find their competitive edge again, Phil Jackson realizes the team needs to find that for itself, and he is letting the players find their way. Hopefully those two losses last week help speed the process. Especially because even with the injuries, the Pistons can win this game if the Lakers slack off.
Detroit plays at the slowest pace in the league, and they have the fewest assisted baskets in the league. Which is to say — welcome to 1990s isolation offense. Tonight will be about man-to-man defense and the bigs making good defensive rotations. Both things lacking against Houston.
Also, the Lakers should be able to run and get some transition buckets tonight.
When the Lakers do go into the post with the ball on offense, watch the Lakers spacing outside. When the double has come there has not been great options for the man passing out of the post, and the person who gets that first pass has often not had someone in position for that extra pass to get an open look. The Lakers need to get back to that.
Detroit will go to a three-guard lineup at times when Bynum comes in, and they count on teams not being able to match that quickness. The Lakers need to make them pay by posting up Kobe on offense some when this happens, but this will be there biggest team defensive test of the night.
This game features two of the worst teams in the NBA so far this season on the defensive glass — both teams are giving up a ton of offensive boards, which is leading to second chance points. If one team can clean that up, if one team puts in the effort to rebound, they will have a big advantage.
Where you can watch: This game tips off at 7:30 pm Pacific, on Fox Sports television and ESPM 710 on radio.