Kyle Kuzma isn’t quite from Detroit (he actually hails from nearby Flint, Mich.) but when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Pistons on Monday night, the contest will serve as a pseudo-NBA homecoming for the standout rookie.
And for Kuzma, the team’s solitary visit to the Mitten couldn’t come at a better time. He’s finally vaulted over the rookie wall he hit midway through the season, averaging 18.9 points and 8.9 rebounds on 46.9 percent shooting while knocking down 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers over his last 10 games since being inserted into the starting lineup at small forward in the wake of Brandon Ingram’s injury.
Kuzma’s strongest performance in his recent stint with the starters might have come in the Lakers’ most recent win, as Kuzma’s 15 fourth-quarter points propelled the team to a win over the Memphis Grizzlies that snapped a four-game losing streak.
But while Kuzma might be getting some home cooking from his mom in the form of spaghetti when he returns, he won’t be getting as warm a welcome from the Pistons.
Detroit is currently in the midst of a seemingly doomed playoff push at the end of a season that began with playoff aspirations that were seemingly resuscitated with a midseason trade for former Clippers star Blake Griffin.
That Griffin-led surge hasn’t been as impactful as Stan Van Gundy would’ve liked, and the Pistons are now six games back in the loss column behind the Milwaukee Bucks, who are currently clinging to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Pistons are still charging forward, however, and have won three of their last four games, with two of those wins coming on the road. Still, those came against the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns and Chicago Bulls (three of the NBA’s worst teams) with the one loss coming to the Houston Rockets (arguably the NBA’s best team), albeit after Detroit pushed them to overtime.
Even with all that recent success, Detroit still appears to be on the outside looking in of the playoff race, with weirdly similar statistics to the Lakers.
Detroit has slightly worse offensive efficiency than the Lakers (23rd compared to L.A.’s 22nd) and slightly better defensive efficiency (11th to Los Angeles’ 13th), making this matchup the type of toss-up that could be pushed one way or the other by factors like homecourt advantage for the Pistons or a big homecoming night from Kuzma.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton will have to keep his undermanned and injured team motivated on the road without the carrot of a playoff spot to push for, but the two teams’ similarity should lead to a competitive game in Detroit if both sides bring their A-game.
Los Angeles Lakers (32-40) Vs Detroit Pistons (33-40):
4:00 P.M. PST, March 25, 2018
Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Travis Wear, Ivica Zubac
Projected Pistons Starting Lineup:
PG: Reggie Jackson
SG: Reggie Bullock
SF: Stanley Johnson
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Anthony Tolliver, James Ennis III, Ish Smith, Luke Kennard