Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Both the Pistons and Lakers seem to be teams that are still struggling to find their identities. How will Sunday’s game help to make that picture more clear?
Dan Feldman, PistonPowered: The Pistons better prove the Lakers’ luster is gone. Despite high expectations after adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the Lakers won just one of their first four games last season — against the Pistons. The Pistons played scared that game, succumbing because they thought they should. In hindsight, that looks foolish, because the 2012-13 Lakers weren’t anything special. Neither are the 2013-14 Lakers, and the Pistons must play like they know that.
Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Keep the good times rolling. I’m not sure if calling a win over the Kings a “good time” is a good thing or bad, but the Pistons need to carry it over. Consistency issues have killed this team all season long, and that’s a similarity to the Lakers. With Josh Smith coming off his best game as a Piston and Andre Drummond giving his best Moses Malone impressing these last few games, the Pistons need to take whatever they found success doing against Sacto and build on it against L.A.
Darius Soriano, Forum Blue and Gold: In Tuesday’s win over the Pelicans (and even in the loss against the Nuggets on Wednesday), the Lakers may have already started to find that identity that’s been lacking so far this season. Mike D’Antoni adjusted his starting lineup and moved players into roles/positions that better match with ones they’ve played their entire careers. Against the Pistons, I hope to see the Lakers build on that by playing similar personnel groupings that maximize the style of play that match what those players are comfortable doing. That should mean a more deliberate style from the starters that features Pau Gasol in the post with athleticism from Jordan Hill up front and Wes Johnson on the wing. With the 2nd group, that should mean a more chaotic style led by Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, and Nick Young attacking from the wing with a pick up in defensive intensity on the perimeter.
2. The Lakers’ strength so far this season has been its ability to shoot from behind the arc. The Pistons’ weakness is, well, defending everywhere; including 3-pointers. Will that be a deciding factor on Saturday?
Dan Feldman: Very well could be. The biggest problem resulting from the Pistons’ jumbo starting front line has been a lack of defensive speed. (Chauncey Billups starting doesn’t help, either.) Unable to cover enough ground, Detroit inevitably loses offensive players on the perimeter. With several capable perimeter shooters, the Lakers should take advantage.
Brady Fredericksen: Maybe. The Pistons have been one of the worst teams in the league when it comes to rotating defensively on 3-point shooters. The thing about the Lakers and their shooters is that they aren’t very good otherwise. Guys like Nick Young, Jodie Meeks and Xavier Henry should be guys the Pistons attack offensively. The Lakers are going to make some shots from behind the long-line, but the Pistons need to attack their shooters on the other end of the court.
Darius Soriano: To state it succinctly, yes. When the Lakers shoot well from behind the arc, they’re a much better team overall as their offense not only produces points, but generates the spacing that allows for the dribble penetration that sets up easier shots at the basket via dump offs to the bigs as well as kick outs to the mid-range where Chris Kaman and Pau are effective. If the Lakers can stretch the floor and, ultimately, force the Pistons’ big men into help positions via the penetration that flows out of that, I envision the Lakers being able to score enough points to win.
3. So, who wins on Sunday and why?
Dan Feldman: Pistons. They’ve lost to every opponent that currently has a winning record and beaten every opponent with a losing record with the exception of the 4-5 Grizzlies, who needed overtime to beat Detroit. The Pistons should and have beat teams like the 4-7 Lakers.
Brady Fredericksen: I’ll say Pistons. Neither team is playing great right now, but with the way Drummond and Smith have looked it’s hard to think that won’t be a factor against the Lakers up-and-down front court. Greg Monroe is bound for a rebound game as well. I just don’t buy the Lakers just yet. They’re relying on 3-pointers and it just feels like the perfect scenario for the Pistons to show they aren’t inept in terms of defending a team that lives by the deep ball.
Darius Soriano: I’ll pick the Lakers, though that’s with a bit of hesitation. The Pistons offer excellent athleticism up front and have guards who can really push the pace and score off the dribble. Considering the Lakers have struggled guarding skilled PF’s, I have my concerns about Monroe finding his groove. I also have concerns about the Gasol/Drummond match up as Pau may have difficulty scoring in the post which would then push him more to the perimeter. This will be fine if he hits his shots, but if his jumper isn’t falling, it could lead to empty possessions and long rebound chances that the Pistons can turn into the type of open court chances the Lakers don’t defend well.