On Monday night at Little Caesars Arena (no, really—that’s what it’s called), Michigan will be welcoming home two of their own as Flint native Kyle Kuzma and former Detroit Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope roll into town looking for a win with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The two sides haven’t seen each other since the first month of the regular season, when the Lakers beat the Pistons 113-93 at STAPLES Center. A lot has changed since then, most notably Detroit’s acquisition of five-time All-Star Blake Griffin, who spent seven of his eight years in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Griffin himself hasn’t had a hard time getting acclimated to his new team, averaging 20 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, but the Pistons are still figuring things out after losing three of their players, and their first-round pick in the upcoming draft, in the trade that brought Griffin to the Motor City at the trade deadline.
Since returning from the All-Star break, the Pistons have gone 5-11, putting them at 33-40 on the season, good (or bad) enough for the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference. Now that wouldn’t such a big deal if they 1. didn’t trade their own first-round pick and 2. didn’t have over $100 million in guaranteed salaries until 2020, but they do.
Despite this, the Pistons should be favorites going into Monday’s matchup with the Lakers.
Not only are the Lakers going to be super shorthanded again on Monday, but the Pistons have two All-Stars under 30 on their roster that can give them 30-plus minutes of high-level basketball a night. For those keeping score, the Lakers have zero All-Stars, under or over 30.
Usually the Lakers’ depth is able to save them from top-heavy teams, but as I mentioned earlier, they will be without a number of key players including Josh Hart, Isaiah Thomas and, unless anything changes from now until tip-off, Brandon Ingram. For context, the Lakers played an eight-man rotation Saturday night and were barely able to beat the 19-54 Memphis Grizzlies.
A pair of big nights from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope against his former team and Kyle Kuzma in his hometown would keep the game interesting, but if the Lakers want to steal another win on the road, they’re going to need someone to step up from their bench.
Is that Thomas Bryant’s music I hear?
Enjoy the game!
Time: 4 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet