Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

Darius Soriano —  January 4, 2011
Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Records: Lakers 23-11 (4th in West), Pistons 11-23 (12th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.9 (5th in NBA), Pistons 105.1 (20th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (12th in NBA), Pistons 110.1 (25th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Pistons: Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva, Ben Wallace
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff (out); Pistons:Jonas Jerebko (out), Terrico White (out), Chris Wilcox (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in:  The only thing most people can talk about is what’s wrong with the Lakers.  Whether running with comments from Phil and Kobe that speak to disharmony, pointing the finger at Gasol for his drop off from earlier in the season, or looking at age and athleticism, the stories are coming fast and furious as the Lakers underachieve as a team.  No one is ready to put the fork in this group, but as the underwhelming play continues, the Lakers are an easy target to begin to dismiss with the rationalization that it may not be their year. 

We’ve given our own responses to what ails the Lakers, but at some point any criticism from the outside will need to be matched by what’s going on the inside of the Lakers’ lockerroom if we’re going to see any marked improvement.  I mean, we can talk all we want about improving some aspect of their play (or all aspects of it) but until the players actually start to do those things we’ll just sit back and see similar results to what we have of late.   Some frustrating games where win or lose the only consistent thing we get from the team in its lack of consistency; its inability to string together even 24 minutes of truly inspired basketball.  Simply put, the Lakers need to look in the mirror and start to figure some things out.  Time for talk is running out and patience is wearing thin from even the most optimistic observers. 

The Pistons Coming in:  When the Lakers visited Detroit in the middle of November, we spoke of a struggling team that was fighting with their coach.  At that point in the year they looked like a mish-mash group of guys that weren’t on the same page and the results were too many losses and over-boiling frustration.  And while the confrontations have mostly calmed down, this team isn’t any better than the one we say 6 weeks ago.

This group still struggles to defend, doesn’t have an interior offensive presence, and has a glut of wing players that would never be confused with “lunch pail” types that are willing to do the little things to win.  The team still has issues playing hard every night and whether you want to point the finger at the coaches or the players, the fact is that neither group is getting it done.  They’ve lost 4 of 5 games with their lone win came against an injury riddled Celtics team.

All that negativity aside though, the team (despite the losses) has been playing some close games.  3 of those 4 recent losses were by 5 points or less (including their last game against the Jazz) and they took the Bulls to overtime before falling short.  On an individual level, Tracy McGrady has been playing well of late, filling in for Rodney Stuckey (stomach virus) as a primary ball handler and playmaker.  In his three starts, T-Mac has averaged 7 assists a game and had a near triple-double against the Jazz with 11 points and assists while grabbing 9 rebounds.  Tayshaun Prince has also been an efficient scorer in the last few games making greater than 50% of his shots in 4 of his last 5 contests.  In the end though, this team is losing two of every three contests and until they can rework their roster they’re going to have a rough go of it. 

Pistons Blogs:  PistonPowered does an excellent job with all things Detroit Basketball.  Give ’em a visit and see for yourself.

Keys to game:  The last time these two team met, the Lakers won easily by executing their offense with alarming efficiency to the point where only a lax 4th quarter kept the final margin as close as it was.  Tonight, against the 25th most efficient defense, the Lakers will again look to capitalize on their overwhelming match up advantages while suffocating a Piston offense that will look to do most of their damage from the outside.

Offensively, those advantages lie in the post.  With Bynum back the Lakers’ size advantage borders on the ridiculous as the undersized Ben Wallace and SF posing as PF Charlie V will be facing Bynum and Gasol respectively.  If there’s any night where the Lakers need to go inside to start nearly ever possession it would be this one.  Neither of those guys are defensive stoppers (Wallace once an all timer on that end is now just average, allowing a PER against of 19 when playing Center) and they should be attacked relentlessly.  Going inside will open up the game for every other Laker both on the perimeter and slashing to the rim so the team would be best served (as they are most nights) working inside out.

Defensively, the Lakers should look to be very aggressive on the wing.  I’d like to see them deny passing lanes, pressure ball handlers, and look to be as disruptive as possible on the perimeter.  The Pistons want to run stagger screen sets for their shooters and run pick and roll with their primary ball handlers, but in the end it leads nearly 38 shots a night from 16 feet and out (according to HoopData).  That means the Lakers will be best served forcing the Pistons off their sweet spots and into the help of contesting big men.  Where the Lakers may struggle some is in the pick and pop game with Charlie V setting the screens, but because Ben Wallace is a non offensive threat, the Lakers should be able to rotate off him to cover up their rotations.

Lastly, I’d also like to see the Lakers push the pace a bit more than they have lately.  For the season, the Lakers are the 11th fastest paced team in the NBA but of late they’ve been walking the ball up a lot more.  Detroit actually prefers to play at a slow pace as their in the bottom 5 teams in the NBA averaging only 92 possessions a game (the Lakers average about 96).  I know that the Lakers are not going to be a classic fast break team as they lack the parts to play that way (Fisher is not only older but he’s not a traditional PG and besides Kobe, Barnes, and Brown no Laker is really great at running the floor), but the Lakers can do other things to play faster.  They can run the ball up and look to initiate the offense faster, they can run more drag screen and rolls in semi-transition, the big men can run more post lane sprints now that Bynum is back and fatigue is less an issue.  My point being, speed up the game to get some easier baskets.  Detroit will allow this to happen as their not a strong defensive team and dont’ have the size to really contest shots in the open court.

At this point, with the Lakers playing the way that they are, no game should be taken for granted and no oppenent should be considered an easy out.  As I mentioned earlier, Detroit has hung tough in their recent games and tonight they’ll be looking for revenge due to the beat down LA laid on them on their home court.  That said, Detroit isn’t a good team and there’s no better night to get back on track than against this type of team in comfort of Staples Center.  Here’s hoping it gets done.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start on Fox Sports West.  Listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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39 responses to Preview and Chat: The Detroit Pistons

  1. This one is for Warren.

    Speaking of pace, HoopData breaks down the Lakers’ slump:

    The team (duh) is playing at a slower pace and (duh) turning the ball over too much. Offensive efficiency has dropped off 11.5 and DefEff 4.2.

  2. Thanks Darius! 🙂

  3. It kind of sucks when you can’t even be sure that the Lakers are going to beat a team like Detroit at home. I really miss having expectations for this team. Hopefully this will be the start of a long winning streak.

  4. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) January 4, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    The Lakers have been painful enough to watch lately that I’m wondering whether I should take the time or pretend I’m not aware of a game being on tonight and play one of my Christmas video games.

  5. We are getting a taste of what it’s like to be fans of an ordinary team.

    Just a taste.

  6. Lakers will win tonight, but by less than 10, my prediction

  7. I miss beautiful basketball. Please get back to showing us that, Lakers. Thanks in advance.

  8. CA Clark put up a preview over on SS&R that is hilarious in its brutality. Very much worth a read.

  9. I may have oversold the threat of the Pistons in the preview, but I think as fans we’re all on uncertain ground with this team right now.

    After the New Orleans win and a solid showing against a game 76ers team, we all breathed a sigh of relief. But the troubles were never really gone, just masked by subtle improvements in a couple of areas. Tonight is likely a good night to get back to basics in order to re-establish some winning ways.

  10. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) January 4, 2011 at 7:03 pm


    I think the difference is in level of talent/expectations vs. performance. This isn’t the Timberwolves being blown out repeatedly at home. This is the TWO TIME DEFENDING CHAMPIONS.

    We don’t have the talent level of an ordinary team. It isn’t unreasonable to expect better results with the level of talent that the Lakers have, and to be harsh on them when they underperform vs. what they’re capable of to such an intense degree that it becomes painful to watch.

  11. It’s interesting, teams are either getting more used to the triangle or the Lakers aren’t doing the little things to make the triangle successful.

    Considering the triangle has been around for decades, I’m assuming it’s the latter.

    The Lakers entry passes are entirely too predictable. If Pau receives the pass he needs to make his reads a little quicker and be decisive with the ball. Teams are swarming him quicker or are forcing him into rushed shots out of his comfort zone. Basically he’s not in his sweet spot. I’m not sure if he’s not able to fight for position because of an injury but he’s looked very mortal in the past few weeks.

    Bench mob is back…not the good one. There is not a lot of ball movement. The one advantage that this unit has is youth and energy. The first unit does not possess the ability to penetrate as well as other teams.

    I would love to see the Killer B’s use Blake’s penetration and create some better looks.

    It’s early in the season but they’re not in sync and are not playing with heart. If they solve just these two things they would win 55 games easily.

  12. With Andrew sitting, the Lakers offense is sputtering. Kobe with his nowhere-near-his-man defense is going to make this game difficult with Drew in foul trouble.

    Glad they are at least making the effort to go inside on offense.

    Any word on kobe’s finger? 0-8 is pretty bad.

  13. Kobe at 0-7 is not a good sign. I hope he plays more of a facilitator role tonight than launching clunkers ala San Antonio.

    Anyone with a live stream?

  14. Kobe’s just chucking stuff up there right now.

  15. Just tuned in. 0-for-9 by Kobe? Wow.

    And to think earlier today while reading ESPN, every analyst thought Kobe should be doing less shooting.

  16. I am interested in finding out if there is a correlation between kobe chucking and nights where kobe is on the verge of passing someone on the scoring list.

  17. McGrady is going to have a career come back performance at the expense of Kobe and the Lakers if the defense doesn’t improve. Kobe is letting him pick the team D apart.

  18. No turnovers in the first half? Did I read that right?

  19. Kobe 3-13
    with the way Lakers are playing, I’ve been opting to play Starcraft 2 instead

  20. Remember when some crazy man saidbwe should get tmac for the minimum to play pg for us? That was crazy. People said he couldn’t gept it back… People said he couldn’t play pg. Well… He is a quality NBA player again… Ande pistons are playing him at pg. It’s hard to be right so often. Not that hard, but it’s still a struggle.

  21. First turnover almost at the end of the 1st half. Good going.

  22. Sorry about the typos… I’m having problems withnmy new iPad. Humble brags can be as effective as they aren’t sneaky.

  23. tmac only looks like he’s actually still a good player because the lakers perimeter defense tend to allow every scrub and has-been to have career nights. with the current mediocre play and lack of team d (kobe) and lack of effort from pau on both ends with drew sitting, it could be another nice win for another below .500 team.

    i hope not. i’m only watching hoping for a win but no longer expecting. just believing, otherwise i would just dvr it. is this what it feels like being a warriors fan?

  24. Well, Aaron, the pistons ARE 11-23. so there’s always that.

  25. Kobe’s FGA’s aren’t a concern to my eyes. He’s missed so many close shots that it’s really an outlier game even though if the boxscore looks familiar to other types of games.

  26. Haha… The pistons are a bad team… How well wouldb the pistons be playing if Kobe was on the squad instead of tmac?

  27. the lakers are looking better on both ends with drew back in.

  28. what is ailing pau? drew is definitely out performing pau.

  29. When Bynum has been healthy. He has out performed pau often. Nothing against pau… Bynum when healthy and rolling is a dominant force. Gasol is a skilled all star of… But I’ll take a dominant center any day of the week. But I’ll take a healthy player over a dominant injured center.

  30. 3 defensive 3 calls. a lot of standing around on d.

    nice block by pau. they need to keep going inside and build on the lead.

    wow, i don’t think i’ve ever seen artest jump that high, dunk and hang. it wasn’t really that high but by cement shoes standards, that was.

  31. 30, so that would mean that Bynum has outperformed Pau in like, 3 games? 4 games? Just sayin’

  32. Ha… I would say a good 21 games

  33. Pau and Bynum compliment each other – that’s what makes them both so effective and why either one can go off for a big game while the other’s numbers don’t look as good. Both are willing to play their role on any given night and they really are interchangeable parts in more than half of the Lakers’ sets. If I had to choose one, I’d defer because I think both are integral to the Lakers success (though in somewhat different ways).

  34. OK, I’m glad I caught tonight’s game, especially a game where the Lakers played with swagger and demonstrated a renewed interest in team ball. I know it’s only one game, but hopefully they can carry this momentum into Phoenix.

    Congratulations to Kobe for making #10 on the NBA All-Time Scoring List — and that Artest dunk was a treat as were Shannon’s highlights. Limited turnovers, Luke’s threes, Andrew’s solid play…this was a great game overall.

  35. Darius… Thank god they didn’t make us pick one

  36. Bynum with a +-of +30.

    Was he that dominant? It’s easily double of any other Laker that played tonight.

  37. Ball still didn’t go into the post enough, although it was a marked improvement. Thing is, when the ball does go into the post – it’s over. Pau and Drew are simply too great in there, especially if the other players move around them (even more important for Pau than for Drew).

    Also: Drew could potentially be the best player in the league if he stays healthy in the future. His touch in the post is something that a guy like Dwight Howard could only dream about.