Is there such a thing as a must win game this early in the season?
The Lakers may find out when they face the Detroit Pistons this evening at Staples Center. After an 0-3 start has fans on edge, facing the Pistons — projected to be a lottery team in the woeful (outside of Miami) East — should be just what the doctor ordered. Even though Nash is set to miss at least a week, this is a game the Lakers should win. If they don’t, in words of John Hollinger, batten down the hatches.
But lets not put the cart before the horse. We don’t want to ponder these things quite yet, right?
In order to win tonight, the Lakers simply need to build on some of the things they’ve shown to do quite well so far and start to cut out some of the mistakes that have been killing their chances at victory. Among these things…
- Look to get Kobe the ball on the move. In case you haven’t noticed, Kobe Bryant — outside of the turnovers, which need to be dramatically cut down — has been playing fantastic offensive basketball. He’s been moving well off the ball by using screens and cuts wonderfully and that’s been leading to him getting the ball in spots where he’s most effective:
- As you can see from his shot chart, Kobe’s taken 40 shots inside 15 feet and 28 shots in the restricted area. Most of these shots have come with him taking hand-offs from the pinch post and driving or on cuts into open space. This should continue to be a major part of the Lakers’ offense.
- Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol must continue to get their touches. Pau is shooting 47% from the field even though he’s still taking a fair amount of jumpers. Howard is shooting nearly 62% from the field and has drawn, on average, 11 fouls a game. In the last contest foul trouble and the flow of the game meant that the bigs weren’t as involved as they could have been. Tonight I hope to see them back to being more involved.
- In moving into the negatives category, the Lakers must cut out the turnovers. Committing 59 in three games is comical. Even if you want to blame the Princeton offense for some of the miscues, the players are still being careless with passes and making bad reads with the ball. This has to stop, especially since the Lakers have so many issues transitioning from offense to defense after live ball turnovers.
- Ron needs to find some semblance of his offense or he should see his minutes reduced. Lost in the hubbub of the Princeton offense and the struggling defense is that Ron is shooting 35% from the field and only 23% from three point land while committing nearly 4 turnovers a game. Against the Clippers he took seven three pointers and only hit one. After a very good preseason, Ron is either slumping or regressed horribly but both mean the same thing — he’s hurting the team’s O when he’s on the floor.
Tonight, the Pistons offer an interesting challenge. Like the Lakers, they are winless and that is indicative of their own struggles as a team. They lack depth and their best players are all pretty young, and thus, mistake prone. But, don’t mistake that youth for lack of talent because that’s certainly not the case.
Brandon Knight is a nice young PG that continues to make strides in his second season. He will attack off the dribble and can hit his pull up jumper if given room. Andre Drummond is only a rookie and is not yet starting, but shined during the preseason flashing athleticism and rare defensive instincts. Add to them Rodney Stuckey (who has struggled this season but is a nice combo guard) and Greg Monroe (a gifted offensive player, especially as a passer) and the Pistons have a good young core that can play in this league.
The Lakers, though, are the better team. Not just on paper but, even though they too are winless, on the floor. That means this is a game that should be won. Based off the circumstances of their season to this point, it needs to be won. Hopefully after the game the final score reflects this.