Pistons vs. Lakers preview: Rivals square off on Super Bowl Sunday

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

It's a rare afternoon game for two teams fighting for momentum to sneak into the playoffs. Both currently sit in the 10 seed in their respective conference.

Game tips at 1 p.m. EST
Detroit Pistons: 18-29 (13-11 at home)
Los Angeles Lakers: 21-26 (6-16 on road)
Detroit Pistons tickets

There are plenty of storylines for this one. Two teams who have historically faced each other in the Finals play each other on Super Bowl Sunday with both scraping for the playoffs.

While the Pistons remain shorthanded as they wait for Jose Calderon's visa issues to get squared away, the Lakers may have Dwight Howard back from his latest injury. Howard is a game-time decision with his torn labrum.

The Situation

The Lakers have been on something of a roll lately, winning four of their last five. They didn't miss Howard in Minnesota on Friday, as LA broke out the smallball and saw strong games from Gasol and Jamison.

Detroit, on the other hand, has pretty erratic here lately. After a couple of blowouts from the Bucks and Pacers, the Pistons handed one to the Cavs on Friday.

Whether Howard returns and how much he plays will obviously be key in what we see out of the matchup. But either way it'll likely be a much different look than what we saw in the first meeting with Mike Brown on the Lakers' sideline, when the Lakers used their size advantage to completely dominate the Pistons with a 46-33 rebound advantage and 8 blocks.

Gasol and Howard's struggles playing together have been well-documented and continues. But over the past month, D'Antoni has found a look he likes in smallball with Earl Clark as the starting power forward. He's responded well, to the tune of 11 points on 54% TS and 9 rebounds in 31 minutes per game in the 14 games since the move.

Check out the game preview over at Silver Screen and Roll. They have some other interesting conversations going on, most notably Ron Artest is still nuts, calling the Lakers "the greatest team ever assembled."

Keys to the Game

CAPS LOCK: Always. But it'd particularly be nice to let Moose take advantage of Clark or Jamison at the four rather than the tougher matchup of Howard or Gasol. By the way, Moose has quietly returned to being Moose with a 17 and 10 January (on 53% shooting).

Brandon Knight's consistency: Knight was great against the Cavs after weak showings in the two blowouts. He doesn't necessarily need to put up 20/10/6 like on Friday, but not stinking would be great.

Rebounding: Lakers are one of the best in the league on the glass, which is really what has kept them competitive this year. They dominated the Pistons in this area the first go round.

Question of the Game

All eyes on Jonas. Can he put together a strong performance to stake a claim at the backup small forward minutes?

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