The Lakers (23-14) are still undefeated since the All-Star break even after facing the team most people believe will win the title this season last Sunday. With his mask on, Kobe Bryant has been playing like a superhero for the Lakers and is playing his best basketball of the season the past 3 games.
But all of those games came from within the walls of Staples Center. We all know the purple and gold are one of the top teams at home but are also one of the most disappointing when they switch to their other jersey. They're facing a 3-game road trip starting at The Palace of Auburn Hills tonight and ending at the Target Center on Friday.
The Detroit Pistons (12-26) hasn't had much to celebrate for years and this season is no exception. They're a team with no star or even a top-20 scorer. Their best shot blocker is a 6' 7" 260-pound forward who is averaging .78 blocks per game. They do have one of the best defender this league has ever seen in the past 20 years in Tayshaun Prince and a 7-year veteran guard who is a career 16.7 PPG at 43.5% shooting in Ben Gordon. But stack them against the other starters in the NBA, you could see why winning is hard to come by in Detroit.
The Pistons did snag Kentucky's Brandon Knight and have an improving Greg Monroe as their anchor in the middle. However, Knight has to raise his numbers better than 12.9 PPG, 3.4 APG, 40.9% from the field and 37.2% from distance to get things rolling and for this franchise to start attracting some key free agents in the future. Otherwise, expect more of the same.
As for the Lakers, taking the Pistons lightly tonight nullifies the kind of attitude and intensity they've been carrying since the most popular players this season gathered in Orlando no more than 2 weeks ago. Of course, there's never a guarantee in how focused this team is from one half to another. But Mike Brown doesn't want to see them come out with no desire to be in this game at all.
Detroit have beaten the Celtics, Trailblazers, Magic, and the Pacers at home. So they've proven they can get it together against some of the best in the NBA. If the Lakers don't take heed of that warning tonight, you just never know what could happen.
The Pistons are 9-11 at home and have won 3 of their last 5 at The Palace. They have the 3rd worst offense (89.1 PPG) but are ranked 17th on defense allowing 95.9 points a game.
The Lakers are 6-12 away from Staples Center and have won only 2 of their last 5 on the road. Their 3-game winning streak has improved their ranking on offense at 20 (94 PPG) and on defense at 4 (91.4 PPG).
Matchup of the Game
Andrew Bynum vs. Greg Monroe: These 2 guys are having nearly similar numbers in points (16.5 and 16.2) and in field goals (55% and 51%). Bynum will need to dominate inside on both sides of the floor and don't give up too many rebounds to Monroe if he wants to win this matchup.
Keys for the Lakers
1. Keep Edge: A lot of times when a team is on a roll like the Lakers, that team tends to derail themselves by taking the night off against a mediocre team. That could happen tonight if the Lakers don't take the Pistons seriously enough.
2. Dominate Early: One of the reasons why the Lakers have taken command of their last 3 games from the get-go is by pouncing on the opposing team in the opening quarter and keeping their attack throughout the rest of the game. If they continue tonight, the starters should get an early rest for the Wizards tomorrow night.
3. Turnovers: One of the biggest reasons why the Lakers are still 6 games below .500 on the road is their inability to make proper decisions on offense, especially in the 2nd half. They have to really buckle down in correcting that problem starting tonight.
@ Detroit Pistons
Tonight at 4:30 p.m. (PST)
The Palace of Auburn Hills
TV: KCAL (Los Angeles)
Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN
PISTONS: Charlie Villanueva out (sore right ankle).