Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST the Pistons will be hosting the LA Lakers at the Palace for the final time. The Pistons are on one day of rest after beating the Sixers on Monday, while the Lakers are on one day of rest after beating the Knicks on Monday.
The Lakers are a young team, and as such they are not very good. They sport a decent offensive efficiency of 103.8 against a miserable defensive efficiency of 110.1. Their young guns are also apparently going to be taking up a larger role as Luke Walton started several young guys who had been coming off the bench against the Knicks with the rational of “It’s pretty late in the season.” Julius Randle is an interesting player who is big, strong, and skilled, but lacks a consistent jumper. He can drive to the hoop and pass really well for a big guy, and occasionally shows flashes of good defense as well. Brandon Ingram has been awful this year, which is ok because he is just 19, but he’s still awful right now. Jordan Clarkson remains as a very steady guy off the bench who can score at a good clipin a variety of ways. D’Angelo Russell continues to show signs of being good, averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 assists is pretty decent regardless of any noise around it. The problem is that he is not scoring the ball very efficiently and is still learning to play defense. The Nick Young revival is super cool and he may be the 2nd or 3rd best player on the Lakers right now, and also makes me feel much better about suggesting him as a trade option last year. Lou Williams is a master scorer off the bench who draws fouls and chucks relentlessly. Tarik Black is a high energy/effort center, Loul Deng has fallen off a cliff this year in pretty much every way, Larry Nance Jr. is a great athlete. Mozgov got a DNP last game and I don’t know if it was due to being hurt or not. In his stead Ivaca Zubac played a bit, he is a big guy who has some offensive skill and no defensive abilities really at just 19 years old. This is a team with a bunch of young guys who have promise but are not there yet, and a pair of veteran chuckers who are both having great years. An interesting and kind of fun team, but not a good one.
Matchups to watch:
- Andre vs. The Fishing Village: If the Lakers opt for a center rotation of Tarik Black and Ivica Zubac again, Andre should have a freaking field day. Neither of them have any of the goods to hang with him. Black tries hard enough that he would put up some resistance, but not a lot. Andre should be able to largely do what he wants.
- Leuer vs Randle: Randle is the sort of big, physical athlete that can give Leuer trouble, and Randle is quite good offensively. Leuer will have to play hard and be willing to sacrifice some body shots tonight.
- KCP and Reggie vs Bouncing back: Both had fairly steady games against the Sixers, but neither did a ton. Reggie preceded it with a couple rough outings, and even including his career night KCP has shot just 34.1% from 3 and 35% overall since his return from injury. Other guys have stepped up, but the Pistons will need their backcourt to get back into form.
- Pistons vs Sweet Lou: Lou Williams is the sort of chucker who I have an irrational fear of. He will be going primarily against Ish Smith, so it will be interesting to see how that shapes up.
- Bench Mobs: The Lakers bench is actually quite good. (relatively speaking) The Pistons bench is quite good as well, but particularly with the changes to the starting lineup, if the Lakers win it is likely to be on the back of a big night from the bench. The Pistons bench needs to keep up.
So in conclusion…
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
- The Lakers have no answer inside for Andre.
- Reggie and KCP start pouring in buckets over a weak defensive backcourt.
- Marcus Morris continues his hot shooting.
Run for the hills if:
- Randle is bullying the Pistons 4s.
- Lou Williams starts hitting absurd shots.
- The Lakers bench mob makes a big run.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
- Andre dominates but doesn’t play enough to get too big a stat line.
- KCP and Reggie both have nice games, but don’t do anything huge. Much like the Sixers game.
- Nick Young scores more than 20 points.
- Pistons have another really good team effort on both ends and win fairly comfortably with the Lakers only ray of hope being a hot shooting stretch from Young in the 2nd quarter.
What do you think? Can the Lakers contain Andre? Can the backcourt bust out?