Another day, another opportunity for the Los Angeles Lakers to get back to winning days — this time facing the Detroit Pistons as the road trip continues.
It shouldn’t be difficult for L.A. to improve upon the embarrassing performance against the Boston Celtics. The Lakers collapsed spectacularly on Friday, allowing the average Celtics offense to run rampant for three full quarters.
And they did so even though LeBron James returned from injury after missing eight straight games with a strained abdomen.
The Lakers will square off with the 4-11 Pistons with the same personnel they had against Boston, coming up against one of the worst offenses in the NBA.
Detroit ranks last in field goals made (35.3 per game), field goal percentage (40.7%), and 3-point percentage (29.8%) in the NBA. The Pistons also score the second-fewest points per game (98.5).
Their offensive struggles were on full display on Friday, when they fell 105-102 to the Golden State Warriors even though the Western Conference side played without Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, James Wiseman, and Otto Porter Jr.
But in the current state of affairs, the Lakers simply can’t underestimate Detroit.
The Pistons seem capable of hurting L.A. in at least a few of ways. They do a great job at getting to the free-throw line, attempting 21.9 of them per game (third-most in the NBA). Also, Detroit ranks fifth in offensive rebounds — collecting 11.3 of them a night — while giving up just 8.9 itself (third-fewest in the league).
The stats could give the Lakers flashbacks of the loss to Boston, who dominated the glass and received foul call after foul call while penetrating the pain. And if not, they should at least bristle upon realizing the Pistons force the second-most opponent turnovers in 2021-22 (17 per game).
James and Anthony Davis seem to have started asking questions over the efficiency of the Lakers’ small-ball unit with which they started recent games. Against Detroit, head coach Frank Vogel could give some more minutes to Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, who have barely played this week. The latter is returning to the starting lineup after being benched the last few games with Talen Horton-Tucker going to the bench.
The Pistons allow rivals to shoot with the highest 3-point field goal percentage than against any other team in the NBA this year (39.8%). Carmelo Anthony, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker, and even James could greatly capitalize on Detroit’s weak perimeter defense.
However, they can only do so if the Lakers play with more energy that would leave them with extra space behind the 3-point line.
But most importantly, L.A. simply needs to put in more effort and communicate better on both ends of the floor — a common theme in postgame interviews following the loss to the Celtics. As Anthony said, there isn’t a way to learn how to leave your absolute best on the floor.
That’s just something the Lakers have to do.
Lakers (8-9) vs. Pistons (4-11)
3:00 p.m. PT, Nov. 19, 2021
Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony
Projected Pistons Starting Lineup:
PG: Cade Cunningham
SG: Cory Joseph
SF: Saddiq Bey
PF: Jerami Grant
C: Isaiah Stewart
Key Reserves: Frank Jackson, Trey Lyles, Hamidou Diallo
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