March 26, 2018, 3:36 pm
The Lakers (32-40) head to Detroit on Monday to close out their road trip with a bout against the Pistons (33-40).
Los Angeles has already eclipsed their win total from last year by six games, but has played inconsistently of late due to injury and fatigue — putting somewhat of a damper on a mostly positive season. They barely escaped Memphis with a win on Saturday, snapping a four-game losing streak by the final tally of 100-93.
Kyle Kuzma led the way for the Lakers with a clutch 25-point, 10-rebound and three-assist performance. He was the focal point of their offense while demonstrating the full array of his skill set on the offensive end, including his outside range, ability to drive to the basket and lethal potential in the pick and roll game. Kuzma will be returning to his home state of Michigan and is hoping that some home cooking will help contribute to a positive experience and solid outing: “I’m going home tomorrow and my mom is cooking spaghetti.”
He was joined by fellow rookie Lonzo Ball, who nearly triple-doubled with 12 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. Ball’s shooting woes continue to be an issue of late as he was only able to convert 1-of-6 from 3-point range and 1-of-4 from the charity stripe, including two missed free throw attempts that nearly proved costly. His 5-of-13 shooting was a step in the right direction; he focused on attacking the paint which was extremely helpful considering he has only knocked down 8-of-54 from 3-point range (14.8 percent) over his last eight games. He will be relied on heavily as the Lakers will once again be without his backup Isaiah Thomas, who will miss his second consecutive game with a hip injury.
The Lakers will also be without leading scorer Brandon Ingram, who will miss his eleventh consecutive game with a groin injury sustained on a hard foul during a victory over the Miami Heat.
Another player tasked with stepping up in his stead is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who will be returning to Detroit for the first time since joining the Lakers this offseason. Caldwell-Pope was expected to sign a large deal with the Pistons before they acquired Avery Bradley, deeming him expendable and leading to his eventual departure. Bradley turned out to be a complete bust, struggling to produce through injury and scheme change, eventually being included in the deal that netted Blake Griffin from the Clippers. Caldwell-Pope scuffled early in the season as he dealt with a 25-day incarceration due to his participation in a DUI during his tenure with Detroit. He has come on strong since the All-Star break, peaking in March with 47.4 percent from 3-point range. He will look to continue his hot shooting in this contest where he will be motivated by revenge.
Los Angeles may have trouble relying of their frontcourt duo of Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, who have carried a significant load in Ingram’s absence. Lopez has had a huge uptick in production since February 1, averaging 15.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.5 blocks while shooting 52 percent from the field and 41 percent from 3-point range. The Lakers’ big men will have to deal with the difficult task of taking on Griffin and Andre Drummond.
Drummond is having a break-out year while averaging 14.8 points, 15.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.7 blocks per game. He has shown marked improvement in his play-making ability with his career-high assist average as well as making significant strides at the free throw line, improving his free throw shooting from 38.6 percent to 60.9 percent.
The Lakers defeated the Pistons 113-93 on October 31 and will look to sweep the season series tonight.
-The Lakers allow the most points in the paint in the league at 49.0 points per game while the Pistons excel at defending the paint, allowing only 43.1 points per game (eighth). On the other end of the ball, the Lakers lead the league in points scored in the paint with 52.3 points per game vs. Detroit who scores 43.6 points per game in the paint (21st). The battle in the key, pitting strengths and weaknesses against each other will be pivotal in this matchup featuring multiple aggressive big men.
-Another element that may prove vital is controlling the defensive glass where the Lakers allow 13.5 second-chance points per game (27th) in contrast to the Pistons who concede only 11.5 points per game (seventh).
-Detroit has shown significant improvement in 3-point shooting this year converting 36.9 percent (eighth) of their shots in contrast to Los Angeles who shoots 34.6 percent from deep (28th).
-This game will pit two of the league’s worst free throw shooting teams against each other with the Lakers shooting 70.8 percent (30th) and the Pistons 74.5 percent (25th).
-While the Lakers average significantly more rebounds per game at 46.2 (second) compared to 43.7 (17th) for the Pistons, the disparity lies more in the pace differential between the teams as they have similar rebounding percentages with Los Angeles leading the way with a 50.8 percent rebounding rate (10th) vs. a 49.9 percent rebounding percentage (18th) for Detroit.
-The Lakers lead the league in pace at 103.02 possessions per 48 minutes in contrast to the Pistons who average only 98.39 (20th). This stark difference may also contribute to the scoring and assist disparities between the teams as the Lakers score 108.5 points per game (10th) with 23.7 assists per game (seventh) compared to 103.0 points per game (26th) and 22.6 assists per game (19th). One statistic that supports that theory is that the two teams share an identical offensive rating at 104.2.
Projected Starting Lineups
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Kyle Kuzma (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Reggie Jackson (PG)
Reggie Bullock (SG)
Stanley Johnson (SF)
Blake Griffin (PF)
Andre Drummond (C)
Brandon Ingram (groin) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Channing Frye (appendectomy) – QUESTIONABLE
Josh Hart (finger) – OUT
Alex Caruso (concussion) – DAY-TO-DAY
Stanley Johnson (gluteal strain) – QUESTIONABLE
Time: 4:00 PM PST, 7:00 PM EST
Television: FOX SPORTS DETROIT, SPECSN/SPECD, TSN1
Radio: 97.1 FM THE TICKET, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES