Just over a week after suffering a 107-92 road loss to the Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers have a chance to avenge the embarrassing defeat at Staples Center.
Even the absence of Anthony Davis couldn’t justify the humiliation L.A. experienced in Detroit. The defending NBA champions chased the emboldened Pistons throughout the game and collapsed spectacularly in the fourth quarter, scoring just 14 points in the 12 minutes.
Saturday provides the Lakers with an opportunity to redeem themselves and find out whether they found answers to their big-man problem. L.A. still struggles when facing crafty centers and power forwards who can exploit their weaknesses in the paint.
Blake Griffin and Mason Plumlee will certainly target Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell in the painted area once again, hoping for an easy layup or trip to the charity stripe. Detroit excels at drawing fouls and converting them into points this season.
And that worked well against the Lakers. The Pistons attempted 13 free throws and made every single one of them last week.
But Detroit felt just as encouraged on the other end of the floor and reduced L.A. to a poor 40.9% shooting from the field. The Lakers did convert 42.9% from downtown, but that wasn’t enough to make up for other shortcomings. Besides, they made the Pistons comfortable on their own perimeter and gave up 14 3-pointers themselves.
As it has often been the case for L.A. this season, hustle and consistency on the defensive end will decide the result of the game. Aside from making stops, the Lakers’ defense plays a key role in setting off their offense just as the recent victory over the Denver Nuggets showed.
Facing a double-digit deficit, head coach Frank Vogel made it clear at halftime of the eventual 114-93 win he wanted the team to play with the same intensity as Dennis Schroder whose two dives on the same possession, aimed to save the ball late in the second quarter, made the highlight reel.
And the Lakers responded, outscoring Denver 68-35 over the following 24 minutes.
A strong defensive display by the Lakers early in the game should set the tone against Detroit. They already know the Pistons will use the slightest contact to get a friendly call — and try to poke the ball out of their hands every time sloppiness creeps in.
L.A. ranks in the bottom half in turnovers they commit while only three other teams force opponents to turn the ball over more often than Detroit.
Lakers (17-6) vs. Pistons (5-17)
7:00 p.m. PT, February 6, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Alex Caruso, Kyle Kuzma, Talen Horton-Tucker, Markieff Morris
Projected Pistons starting lineup:
PG: Delon Wright
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Jerami Grant
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Mason Plumlee
Key Reserves: Saddiq Bey, Sekou Doumbouya, Isaiah Stewart, Svi Mykhailiuk, Josh Jackson
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