In the second of six West Coast games, the Detroit Pistons will take on the Los Angeles Lakers in a matchup of two winless teams.
While the Pistons have experienced this type of start in their current rebuilding process, the Lakers haven’t started 0-3 in 34 years. If they lose tonight, they’ll drop to 0-4, their worst opening record since 1957’s 0-7 start.
Despite being competitive thus far, the Pistons have dropped their first two games due to a lack of composure and experience in late-game situations. Considering the average age of the team – just over 25 years old – it’s not surprising that they’ve had problems early on in the season. They’ll continue to learn from the mistakes being made and hopefully adjust.
That’s not an excuse that the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers can use, though. With the addition of at least one Hall of Famer (possibly two if Dwight Howard can win a championship or two), they were expected to blow past any and all competition. Instead, they went 0-8 in the preseason and have fallen in three straight to open the season.
Despite impressive outings by newcomer Howard (19 and 10 against Dallas; 33 and 14 against Portland; 13 points, eight rebounds, five blocks against the Clippers), LA has lost by at least nine points in all three games this season. The Lakers’ other major offseason addition, Steve Nash, had just nine points and eight assists in two games before suffering a small fracture in his left leg. He won’t play against Detroit and will be out at least another week.
The Pistons have lost by a combined 38 points in their last two visits to the Staples Center, a bad omen for tonight’s matchup. Even without Nash, the Lakers will start their impressive trio of Kobe Bryant, Howard and Pau Gasol, with the enigmatic Metta World Peace also in the starting lineup. Whoever head coach Mike Brown starts at point guard (Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Darius Morris), he will likely just defer to his teammates in this game.
Detroit’s starting five will likely remain the same, although the hyper-athletic Andre Drummond may see more time going against Howard. Besides the point guard and small forward positions, the Lakers would seem to have an advantage at every position, though. Bryant is superior to Rodney Stuckey on both sides of the ball right now, Greg Monroe will challenge Gasol but has been passive thus far, and Howard is simply too physical for most NBA centers and has been on a tear in 2012.
It’s not impossible for the Pistons to win tonight, though. Here is what Detroit needs to do to win:
- Get Rodney Stuckey going – The fifth-year guard is off to a horrendous start in 2012, shooting just 1-of-17 in the team’s first two games. In last season’s 88-85 home win, Stuckey scored 34 points on 13-of-20 shooting. If he can simply show up in this game and make Bryant respect his offense, the Pistons’ chances improve.
- Rebound, rebound, rebound – You simply cannot give Bryant multiple chances on offense – he’ll make you pay every time. Limit the Lakers on offense and they’ll struggle to score. Gasol and Howard are the Lakers’ only real rebounding threats, but Drummond, Monroe and Jason Maxiell need to be active on the boards tonight.
- Limit complementary players – In that 88-85 win last season, the Laker bench scored just seven points. In 2012, LA relies just as much on their starters as they did last season, despite adding veteran scorer Antawn Jamison in the offseason. Jamison hasn’t scored more than five points this year, and outside of Bryant, Howard and Gasol (all averaging 15+ points), no one else is averaging more than seven points. Your stars can carry you for stretches, but at some point, other players have to make shots, and so far, the Lakers’ reserves haven’t done that.
Check back with Life On Dumars for post-game analysis after tonight’s game!