L.A. Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates in the final seconds of the game with the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on January 29, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. . The Lakers won 111-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Lakers continue on their quest to get back into playoff contention as they take on the Detroit Pistons, who might be thinking a bit about the playoffs themselves.

Of course, both teams have one thing in common: if they want to make the playoffs, they've got to win a lot of games down the stretch. That means both teams have something to fight for in this one.

The Lakers have won four of their last five games—as Kobe Bryant has turned into the team's distributor—with wins over the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New Orleans Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

Los Angeles also broke their road losing streak after beating Minnesota. They had lost eight in a row before that win, and are 6-16 on the road overall.

Detroit on the other hand have won just two of their past six games, and are waiting to find out whether or not they'll be with recently acquired Jose Calderon in this game depending on Visa issues.

Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: NBA League Pass

Records: Los Angeles Lakers (21-26), Detroit Pistons (18-29)

Gambling Line: N/A

Injury Report: Dwight Howard, Probable (Shoulder), Jordan Hill, Out (Hip)


Key Storyline: The Grammy Road Trip


The Lakers are in the midst of their longest road trip of the season, as they usually are around this time of the year.

The so-called Grammy Road Trip comes along every year in early February thanks to the Grammy Awards parking themselves in Staples Center, sending the Lakers and Clippers packing for the better part of two weeks.

This is just the third of seven games on the road for the Lakers, with their opponents getting more daunting as they roll along.

They meet Detroit before traveling on to Brooklyn, Boston, and then get a bit of a break with Charlotte before playing Miami to finish things up.

It wouldn't normally be such a big deal, but Los Angeles' 6-16 road record has a lot of people concerned for the Lakers' playoff hopes by the time the trip ends.



Key Matchup: Greg Monroe vs. Dwight Howard


In all likelihood the Lakers will see Dwight Howard make his way back onto the court after aggravating his shoulder against the Phoenix Suns and missing out on the Lakers' win over the Timberwolves.

If that's the case, then expect all eyes to be on Howard throughout the course of the game.

Whether or not he'll be able to slow down Greg Monroe, Detroit's leading scorer, is very much in question, but there's also the concern of whether or not he's going to be able to do much with his right arm throughout the game.

Meanwhile, Monroe is coming off a great January. He averaged 17.2 points and just under 10 rebounds per game, all while shooting nearly 53 percent from the floor. On top of that, Monroe is coming off one of his best games of the season with 18 points and 16 rebounds in Detroit's win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dwight is going to have his hands full with one of the best young centers in the NBA trying to take advantage of a hobbled Howard.



X-Factors: Kyle Singler and Earl Clark


For whatever reason, Kyle Singler has been trying to convince us that he's a legitimate NBA player over the course of this season. And doggone it, he's just about doing it.

Singler might not be a guy who's going to lock down a hot-scoring player, and he's not going to have a lot of shots coming off the dribble, nor will he be creating for other players, but he's going to knock down shots.

The only question is about how often he finds himself open.

He had one of his best games of the season with 20 points and eight rebounds against the Cavs, and has scored in double figures in seven of Detroit's last 10 games.

Meanwhile, Earl Clark has been one of the lone bright spots to come out of the bench, get dusted off and shined up enough to turn himself into a started for the Lakers.

Coming off the bench he wasn't doing much, averaging under four points and just over three rebounds per game, but he's definitely effective as a starter.

He's recorded four double-doubles in 11 starts with the Lakers, and is averaging 10 points and eight rebounds per game.

Combine his ability to play big with the fact that he's got a three-point shot and a nice mid-range game to boot, and you've got a guy that Mike D'Antoni should have fallen in love with months ago.




If Kobe Bryant can continue the trend of creating for his teammates through Steve Nash's offense, the Lakers are going to be hard for any team to beat.

Of course, a lot of this all depends upon the Lakers making their three-pointers and playing good enough transition defense to limit fast-break points as much as possible.

The Pistons also gave the Lakers their first win of the year back in early November when the team was struggling to find their rhythm. I wouldn't say they've found it yet, but they're a lot closer than they were back then.

Because of that, and the fact that the Lakers seem to really have figured out how to run their offense, I've got to pick them.

Los Angeles Lakers 111, Detroit Pistons 101