Showtime: 4:30pm PT
Plot: If you had the Lakers near .500 with almost a court of the season gone, please stand up? Just you guys? Well, you get a cookie. Ten cookies, even.
LA take their talents to Detroit tonight, trying to achieve the season sweep at the Palace of Auburn. The Lakers destroyed the Pistons in a 114-99 rout two weeks ago at STAPLES Center, with Jordan Hill exploding for 24 points and 17 boards and Steve Blake pumping out 16 assists. LA was firing on all cylinders that night, effortlessly manhandling a Detroit team that many, including myself, expected more out of this year.
While the Lakers have to be one of the more moderately surprising team in the Western Conference, the same could be said the other way about the Pistons. Deeeeetroit Basketball was a sneaky preseason darling, with most pundits and bloggers locking the team up for a middle of the pack playoff seed. Free agent imports Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings injected the organization with newfound hope and energy, with many feeling that the team's athleticism and bulldozing front court could look, at times, dominant. Though the Pistons might not be in any danger of making the Eastern Conference Finals immediately, young guys like Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Smith and Jennings could help them get there in just a couple season's time.
But as the season started, it was clear that a very tepid Detroit defense would need to improve by leaps and bounds to get them to take that very modest first step. The Pistons have looked like anything but Bad Boy basketball thus far, with an extremely soft, porous defense that's left them 26th in defensive efficiency and 17th in opponents PPG. Somehow, amidst the shot blocking prowess of Smith and Drummond, Detroit has been toasted by opposing perimeter offenses, no doubt a symptom of the unpolished wing defenders on Mo Cheeks' bench. The Lakers, currently the league leaders in three-pointers made, might have a field day (night?) with their opponents.On the other side of the equation, Detroit is the league's worst three-point shooting team, leaving LA open to crowd the very dangerous Pistons front court.
The Lakers are looking to create their first road winning streak of the season after a near meltdown victory in Brooklyn on Tuesday. Nick Young and Jordan Farmar combined for a monster 41 points off the bench, a performance which they could very well continue against the Pistons. Pau Gasol too had a great night, albeit deceptively against old foe Kevin Garnett, dropping 21 points and 8 rebounds. Against a front line including Drummond and Smith, it will certainly be a challenge for the Spaniard to continue his string of excellent play.
There isn't much storyline-wise tonight--these are just two teams with a large number of new, key personnel that are trying to adjust and come together in this young season. The Lakers took apart the Pistons from every angle 12 days ago, but if two late game meltdowns proved anything, this team is a completely different squad on the road than they are at home.
--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino