Pistons host Lakers: Can Kobe and company be stopped?

Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Detroit Pistons welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to the Palace of Auburn Hills for the only time this season. A rematch of the 2004 NBA Finals, the two teams find themselves in very different places. The Pistons have bottomed out, are in last place in the Central, and are committed to youth. The Lakers are in their customary position in first place in the Pacific and are hopeful Kobe Bryant and company can capture another ring.

Game Tips at 7:30P.M. EST

Los Angeles Lakers: 23 - 14 (6 - 12 road)

Detroit Pistons: 12 - 26 (9 - 11 home)

The Situation:

The Lakers are, how you say "top heavy." With due credit to the movie "Moneyball": "There is Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol. Then, there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's the rest of the Lakers roster.

The have three players who arguably rank in the top five in the NBA at their respective positions in Bryant, Gasol and Bynum. After that? Their fourth best player is probably a fight between Troy Murphy and Matt Barnes. Fortunately for the Lakers, when your top three players are as good as theirs, you can afford to play Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher 23+ minutes per game each.

To put it in perspective, the Pistons leading shot taker is Greg Monroe (as it should be), who takes just over 13 attempts per game. On average, Bryant takes 10 more shots per game. The Lakers big three take 58 percent of their shots. Basically, if you stop Kobe Bryant you have a shot to beat the Lakers. And if you stop Bryant and one of Bynum or Gasol you have a good shot to beat the Lakers. Stop all three and you'll blow them out. Good luck with all that.

Keys to the Game:

On guard: The Lakers don't play fast and are going to out-execute the Pistons on both ends of the floor. The biggest liabilities on the roster are at the point guard position where Steve Blake and Derek Fisher run the show. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are bigger, stronger and faster than their opponents. Both Knight and Stuckey need to hit their outside shots and also run when the opportunity presents itself, which won't be often. They need to force the issue.

Ball goes in hoop: The Pistons are loser of four of their past five, and are shooting a measly 37 percent in thoselosses. The Pistons are shooting 47 percent in wins this season and simply don't have the skills on their roster to overcome poor shooting nights. The Pistons will have trouble owning the paint on the offensive end so they need to make jump shots.

Force jump shots: The Lakers aren't very good at the things that give the Pistons the most trouble this season -- they don't shoot the 3-pointer well, they don't get out and run, they don't force a lot of steals. And that means the Pistons must play sound defense and force Bryant, Bynum and Gasol into tough shots. If they are going to score 65 points the need to take 55+ shots to do it.

Question of the Game:

Which players do I need to pay attention to in the upcoming NCAA tournament?

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