Detroit Pistons vs. L.A. Lakers: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Let the battle of the winless begin.
The NBA continues its opening-week-long festivities Sunday night when Showtime faces off against The Motor City's finest.
Each team is still looking for its first win, which, if you're a Los Angeles Lakers fan, is nothing short of shocking.
Luckily for Mike Brown's cohesively challenged squad, L.A. faces a Detroit Pistons team which has already suffered two losses at the hands of even more inferior opponents.
So even though Detroit will be enthralled at the opportunity to pull off an upset, the Lakers should win easily, right?
Sure, except that's what we thought three other times. And look how that's turned out.
Time: Sunday, November 4th, 9:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Detroit Pistons (0-2), Los Angeles Lakers (0-3)
Betting Line: Lakers -8
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Pistons: Corey Maggette (calf), out
Lakers: Earl Clark (groin), questionable; Jordan Hill (back), probable; Steve Nash (shin), out
Key Storyline: Can the Lakers win their first game of the 2012-13 NBA Season?
Los Angeles' 0-3 showing through its first three games is now irrelevant.
Should the Lakers have a better record? They're roster suggests that they should, but L.A.'s lack of chemistry also implies the team is just going through the motions until it find its inevitable groove.
Which means, struggling or not, Los Angeles needs to assert its dominance by claiming an easy victory.
But will it ultimately do just that, or are its initial struggles indicative of a team which can lose to any team, on any given night?
That's what we're waiting to find out.
Key Matchup: Greg Monroe, C, Pistons vs. Dwight Howard, C, Lakers
Somewhat surprisingly, Detroit has yet to start Andre Drummond at center and slide Greg Monroe over to power forward.
That said, it wouldn't have mattered if the team had started him anyway, because the Pistons' only chance at surviving the storm that is Dwight Howard is Monroe.
Monroe is a crafty scorer who will make Howard work in the post. He has some range for someone his size and is one of the best finishers at the rim, as well.
Defensively, he's an adequate shot-blocker with plenty of mobility. While he's not as athletic as Drummond, he has the body necessary to at least go up against Howard.
But will that be enough?
Howard is the Lakers' second-leading scorer and is a borderline impenetrable force on the defensive end, too.
Let's also not forget that merely days after being posterized once—courtesy of Nicolas Batum—he isn't about to be shown up again. Especially after his poor outing against the Los Angeles Clippers.
If he contains Monroe to the point of frustration, it could negatively impact the latter's defensive mindset, laying the groundwork for another big night from Howard.
And a big night from Howard, coupled with a stonewalled performance by Monroe, could prove to be the difference between a Lakers blowout and a formidable showing from the Pistons.
Andre Drummond, C, Pistons
As raw as Drummond is, the Lakers simply don't have someone on their bench capable of combatting his athletic prowess.
At his peak, the big man is a menacing defender and unstoppable rim-rocker, the kind Howard himself has trouble containing.
If Drummond can be even a semblance of the star he's supposed to develop into one day, Los Angeles' bench will have its hands full on both ends of the floor.
And the Pistons themselves will have a better chance at pulling off the upset.
Jordan Hill, C, Lakers
Outside of Howard, Los Angeles will rely most heavily on Hill to put up a string of strong defensive sets against Detroit's array of low-post fixtures.
Though players like Drummond, Monroe and Jason Maxiell may not seem like much, they all are at home when banging down low.
While Pau Gasol is a solid defender, he's not used to playing the type of grind-it-out defense it takes to keep an interior core like the Pistons' in check.
Which is why the Lakers need Hill extensively. He's a staunch defender who can play the physical type of defense necessary to protect the rim from hard-hitting bigs but can also step out on the perimeter and swarm a stretch forward like Jonas Jerebko.
Should Hill be able to take an ample amount of the defensive burden off Howard's shoulders, Los Angeles would have no trouble waltzing away with a victory here.
Jonas Jerebko, PF, Pistons
Speaking of Jerebko, Detroit will most certainly lean on him to provide an offensive spark off the bench.
Much like Antawn Jamison, he can stretch defenses with his unrestricted range yet possesses the size and ball-handling skills necessary to score with his back to the basket.
If he can draw opposing defenders, like Howard or Gasol, outside of their comfort zones, the Pistons will have a much easier time putting points on the board.
However, if Jerebko disappears or doesn't show up at all, you'd be hard pressed to imagine Detroit going basket for basket with Los Angeles down the stretch.
Metta World Peace, SF, Los Angeles Lakers
Detroit is going to swarm Bryant and Howard all night long, likely abandoning World Peace in the process.
Translation? World Peace will be receiving a boatload of open threes.
Those are shots that he needs to hit, because while the Lakers can win without his offensive production, he makes everything a heck of a lot easier on Los Angeles' star-studded core if he's hitting his open jumpers.
And you'll know how effective he is by the number of three-pointers Gasol has taken.
Any more than two, and it will be clear World Peace's shot attempts aren't falling.
Prediction: Lakers 94, Pistons 81
No matter how much the Lakers have struggled thus far, it's inconceivable to imagine they'll fall victim to a trap game.
Because this isn't a trap game.
Which team is going to earn a victory?
Bear in mind that this isn't a Los Angeles team that has won 10 straight; it's a team still looking to prove it can rise above the complexity of its roster and deliver dominant performances.
While we shouldn't expect the Pistons to roll over—especially considering how much the Lakers have struggled to open the season—relying on Rodney Stuckey and Monroe to provide a majority of the offense will only get them so far.
Losses to fringe playoff teams like the Blazers and Mavericks and contenders like the Clippers are one thing, but for Los Angeles to choke against a visibly inferior opponent would be inexcusable.
Kobe and company know this, though. And they're not about to suffer the consequences of a loss like this one.
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