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Lakers vs. Pistons Preview: Can L.A. avoid hitting rock bottom?

The Lakers gave their fans nothing to be thankful for post Thanksgiving. Can they somehow fix their issues and avoid hitting a new low point for the season against the Pistons?

Los Angeles Lakers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lakers were the biggest losers in the NBA on Friday night. Not only did they lose to a below-average Sacramento Kings team without two of its starters in three overtimes, but LeBron James and Russell Westbrook played 50 (!) minutes each. The Lakers were also -14 in the 35 minutes that James, Westbrook and Anthony Davis all played together. That’s flat out unacceptable.

At this point, this team needs more than a bounce back game on Sunday in their rematch vs. the Detroit Pistons. They need a resurrection. The biggest storyline going into this one nationally is probably going to be the reunion of James and Isaiah Stewart because of their infamous on-court altercation last week, but what the Lakers really need to focus on is fixing their halfcourt offense and defense, rebounding and turning around the mental approach that has caused them 11 games this season.

How can they start fixing their issues on Sunday? Well, if James and Davis actually perform like the two best players on their team, it would certainly help. Davis played 49 minutes last Friday, but only tallied an underwhelming 23 points and 8 rebounds. James got his stats, but missed a ton of crucial jumpers instead of attacking the rim late in the game. The duo combined for an abysmal 2 for 18 shooting from deep. The captains need to be better.

Another issue the purple and gold have to start working on Sunday is their rebounding problems. They’re currently ranked 20th in offensive rebounds per game, and 25th in defensive rebound rate.

How can an already mediocre defense keep a lead if they consistently allow their opponents extra opportunities to score? The Lakers have shown spurts of how great they can look on both sides of the floor, but the problem is that they don’t do this enough throughout the game to really overwhelm their opponents.

And on Sunday, the Lakers will face a Pistons team that’s not even the slightest bit scared of them. In fact, L.A. will have to prepare for a more motivated Detroit team that is well aware that they were up 11 before Stewart and James were ejected last week.

So unlike the last matchup between these two teams, the Lakers have to buckle up and make sure that Jerami Grant doesn’t turn into an All-Star once again, and not allow Stewart and Saddiq Bey’s physical interior presence to overwhelm Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard early on. The same goes for making sure that Hamidou Diallo doesn’t once again have the game of his life again.

Remember, this Pistons team is dead last in the league in points per game (98.6), 3-pointers made (207) and rebounds per game (42). If the Lakers’ mediocre-at-best defense once again makes this Pistons team look like an All-Star team for three quarters, they could be in for another humiliating night for them at STAPLES Center. The key for the Lakers defense (if they decide to actually put more effort on that end on Sunday) is to force the rebuilding team to score from downtown, where they heavily struggled in their loss the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, shooting 8-33 from deep.

And last but not least, the best formula for the Lakers to avoid embarrassing themselves once again is to get stops and contributions from all their role players. Yes, that sounds obvious, but this wasn’t what happened last week in Detroit. L.A. had to rely on a Westbrook fourth quarter masterclass just to get back in the game.

If the Lakers can get ample contributions from every single rotation player or at least the majority of them then there’s a good chance that they can avoid another overtime. Or even you know, even win. Because in a season full of new lows, a loss to the four-win Pistons would truly be rock bottom.

Notes and Updates

  • Trevor Ariza (right ankle injury recovery), Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) are still out tomorrow. Lakers’ two-way contract players Chaundee Brown Jr. and Jay Huff will be on G League duty.
  • LeBron James (rectus abdominis strain) is questionable while Lakers’ two-way contract players Chaundee Brown Jr. and Jay Huff will be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • Austin Reaves, who was recently sidelined due to a left hamstring injury, was available to play on Friday, but was a DNP-CD.
  • Detroit’s Stewart has had his fair share of challenges in finishing at the rim. The Lakers would be wise to let Stewart hold the ball and keep it out of the hands of Grant or even Trey Lyles, who has shot well over the past few games.
  • For news around the league, if you wan’t to feel a little better about the Lakers’ unacceptable loss last Friday, the good news is that multiple teams in the Western Conference like the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies and Minnesota Timberwolves all dropped their games on Friday as well. Misery loves company, and so at least Los Angeles isn’t the only team disappointing its fanbase.

The Lakers and Pistons will tip-off at 6:30 p.m. PST on Sunday. The game will be televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.

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