Records: Lakers 21-4 (1st in West) Pistons 11-15 (7th in East)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 108.2 (13th in league), Pistons 106.2 (18th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 99.2 (1st in league) Pistons 108.4 (19th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pistons: Chucky Atkins, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, Ben Wallace
The Lakers Coming in: Don’t disrespect your opponents. Don’t disrespect the game.
The Lakers did not respect their opponents for the first half last night, figuring they could roll past the Nets whether or not they moved their feet on screens, made the right cuts or generally hustled all out. The coaching staff disrespected the opponents by having Adam Morrison as the second guy off the bench and DJ Mbenga in early, theoretically be cause LA could still win easy they could rest their starters on the front end of a back to back.
And the Lakers were down at halftime.
The Lakers pulled away in the third and made a big run in the fourth with the bench guys in. Most importantly, the Lakers got the win, but it did cost them a chance to rest the starters — Kobe, Gasol and Artest all played plenty of minutes.
The one starter who didn’t was Andrew Bynum, who was in foul trouble again. Silver Screen and Roll has a post up about this worth reading.
Look, big men can fall prey to fluky whistles sometimes. There’s a lot of grappling in the paint, and some nights amid the scrum the refs tag you with a foul or three you didn’t really deserve. I get that. Drew does, though, get caught flat-footed and slow to rotate more than he should. His D on the whole has been better than many in our game threads give him credit for, but it hasn’t been good here in mid-December. Too many times, he gets beat and then to prevent the layup clobbers a guy from behind. His discipline, attentiveness and technique need to get better.
The Pistons Coming in: Not only are the Pistons still without Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton, but now you can add Ben Gordon to the injured list and he is a game time decision. Tough to win much with your three best players on the bench, hence things like the current three-game losing streak.
Rodney Stuckey has been scoring a lot, 31 a couple nights ago, but the coach John Kuester has had frustrations with him getting others involved, and his defensive game. One place the Pistons have been getting great play is from Charlie Villanueva, who is getting space down on the block then shooting 68% when he does. Also, Will Bynum is the kind of spark plug every team wants off the bench, even if he needs to improve his shooting.
Keys to game: We will see how the Lakers are feeling physically, they got out of Newark last night, then skipped morning shoot around. (They are doing better than the beat reporters, who have to fly commercial, and will not make the game due to the storm out east.) The good news is the Pistons play at the second slowest pace in the league, so they are not going to run the Lakers out of the building. (The slowest? Portland.)
What the Pistons did with success against the Lakers last meeting was creating mismatches, the Lakers switched on some screens and ended up with matchups like Artest on the quicker Stuckey, then he Pistons did a good job recognizing and isolated. The Lakers need to be more aware and get something they got little of last time — weakside help.
The other things the Lakers gave up was layups on a simple little handoff/rub action. Again the Lakers got caught without some weakside help.
The Lakers still one that game handily, and they did so in part because the Pistons had no answer for Gasol and Bynum working together in the high low. The Lakers need Bynum to show up tonight, to carry some offensive load. Kobe will get his, they have nobody who can defend him (look for the more athletic Jerebko to get the call, but do you really want a rookie on Kobe?).
What hurt the Lakers in that game was too much freelancing, something that always tends to hurt them. With tired legs, the Lakers need to go with what works and not try to freelance and take on more than they should.
This is going to be a close one folks.
Where you can watch: This game is on Channel 9 here in Los Angels starting at 3, and also is on ESPN 710 radio.