Opponent Scouting: LA Lakers. (22-20)
Tonight at 10:30pm EST the Pistons will be on the road in Los Angeles to play against the Lakers. The Pistons will be on one day of rest after losing to the Spurs and the Lakers are on one day of rest after beating the Mavericks.
The Lakers are pretty good, they are less good without LeBron as you might’ve guessed. They enter the game with the 20th ranked offense by scoring 107.3 points per 100 possessions and the 8th best defensive efficiency by allowing 106.1 points per 100 possessions.
Normally they are led by LeBron who is as good as ever, but he’s currently hurt and won’t be playing. Without LeBron, and Rajon Rondo, they are mostly putting out the baby Lakers lineups. Lonzo Ball is at point guard, who is a brilliant passer and defender but is still only inching towards basic competency as a scorer. His lack of free-throws remains a huge worry for his future as a franchise point guard. Josh Hart is a scrappy defender across multiple positions and can shoot a bit. Kyle Kuzma is big and skilled, he’s shooting poorly from deep but that should start to change at some point. Brandon Ingram has also struggled to shoot but he’s coming off a big 29 point game and is still an impossibly long defender. JaVale McGee is at center as a rim-running screen setter and high-flying rim-protecter on defense.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is here as well, he’s pretty much the same as when we left him but he’s off the bench now. Tyson Chandler is old but he can still jump and still knows how to play defense. Michael Beasley can still score a bit.
Even without LeBron, this team isn’t a pushover. They have a bunch of young guys who can really defend, and if Ingram or Kuzma get going on offense they can be very tough to stop. They need some of their guys (mostly Ingram and Kuzma) to shoot better from deep.
Matchups to watch:
Something vs. Blake Griffin: Not totally sure what the Lakers plan for Griffin is. Hypothetically Kyle Kuzma or Brandon Ingram has been playing the 4, but Kuzma isn’t a good defender and Ingram is probably way too skinny. Blake will probably have to work on defense some, but he should be able to get some work done on the other end.
Reggie Bullock vs. Whichever one he gets: Bullock will probably spend a lot of time guarding either Ingram or Kuzma. Both guys are bigger than Bullock and are not afraid to use that size advantage. It will be a challenge for Bullock and if they get going it may require extra minutes from Stanley Johnson.
Jose Calderon vs. Maybe not playing: When Ish got hurt I proclaimed that Calderon would do ok in his stead. I am taking the L now. Its baffling that a guy who’s such a good shooter can have such a bad stretch, but even if he plays long enough to have it regress to the mean, other areas are bad too. The bench has gotten killed, try something else.
The Bruce Brown/Jon Leuer connection: These guys are showing good chemistry. There’s some Stanley Johnson/Aron Baynes 2015 vibes here. Brown is a good slasher who has great feel for finding guys skulking along the base-line when he draws help, Leuer excels at slipping into space along the baseline when the defense isn’t paying attention. Let these two play together more please.
Pistons vs. Pulling the season back: The Pistons are very much on the brink. Even in a Eastern Conference as bad as this, you can only fall so far back. However, if they dig deep and with Ish Smith’s return looming they have a chance to right the ship. Getting the Lakers without LeBron, games against the below .500 Kings and Jazz, (even though both are still tough teams) Blake Griffin revenge game against the Clippers, and a game against the Magic. In theory they could go on a run, if they keep losing though the season will probably be over before the all-star break.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
Blake Griffin is punking the Lakers defenders.
Lonzo Ball bricks a 3.
The Pistons come out knowing that the season is on the line and play hard and fast.
Run for the hills if:
ingram is shooting over Bullock with ease.
The Lakers are getting out in transition a bunch.
KCP revenge game.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Blake Griffin scores 30.
Andre Drummond 20/20
Lonzo Ball misses 5 threes.
Pistons come out with urgency and get an early lead. The Lakers keep it from getting out of hand but the Pistons carry it all the way to the end.
Pistons 106 - Lakers 94.