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Pistons vs. Lakers Preview: is there any hope for this sinking ship?

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Or is it time to look forward to the NBA draft?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The season from hell. Not my words, but Reggie Jackson’s. No one who follows (and roots for) the Detroit Pistons would argue that. There’s been frustration on the court, off the court, and a general sense of “what the hell is going on?” among the players, coaches and fans. If there was a silver lining for Detroit moving forward, it’s that they’ve already played the fourth most difficult schedule to date, meaning their schedule will lighten up as we enter the second half of the season.

That light schedule (nothing is light for Detroit at this point) starts tonight in Los Angeles, when the Pistons take on the Lakers at the Staples Center. If they’re going to turn their season around, it’ll have to start with beating teams who are destined for the lottery, and doing so every time they get the opportunity.

Game Vitals

When: January 15th, 9:30 p.m. EST
Where: The Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit

Analysis

So, what the hell is going on in Detroit? When it comes to finite inter-personal details, it’s hard to tell; I don’t have sources close to this team who would be able to divulge that type of information. When it comes to the product on the floor, it is very clear that the team’s biggest issue starts with defense.

In Detroit’s past 10 games they’ve boasted these depressing rankings and statistics.*

Last 10 games

30th: opponent field goal percentage (49%), opponent 3-point field goal percentage (46.6%)

29th: opponent 3-pointers made per game (12.2), opponents assists per game (27.3)

28th: net rating (-7.4)

27th: defensive rating (111.5), opponents points per game (110.8)

25th: opponent field goals made per game (40.8)

* all rankings and stats come from basketball-reference.com, and stats.nba.com.

You probably could have guessed that Detroit was one of the worst defensive groups to guard the 3 using only the good old eye test. You’ve most likely noticed that teams have hoisted it with ease from beyond the stripe, including 15 made 3s from Portland, 13 from Sacramento, 15 from Golden State, and 16 from Utah. Detroit simply does not have the offensive firepower to combat these ridiculous totals. Especially seeing that they’ll once again be down Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jon Leuer (that’s 25 points per game out of the starting lineup).

If Detroit is to find a way to win, they’ll need to dramatically improve their 3-point defense. They’ll also have to play consistent defense over the course of an entire game, not just three quarters. In some of their recent games they’ve allowed opposing teams to score well into the 30s and 40s in single quarters. Those disastrous quarters have lead to one of three outcomes. Detroit has either, started off a game down by double digits, squandered a sizable lead and allowed teams to make a game competitive when it should have been put to bed, or simply allowed an opponent to finish strong eventually leading to another Pistons loss.

Luckily for Detroit, they’ll be taking on a Laker team that is still a work in progress. The NBA-verse was enthralled with the Baby Lakers early this season, but as most expected they’ve come back down to Earth. They currently rank dead last in defensive rating (110.3) and opponents field goal percentage (48%), and rank 26th in opponents points per game (110.3). If the Pistons are going to somehow take some positive vibes back with them to Detroit, it’ll start with a solid defensive effort, leading to the exploitation of a horrid LA defense.

Projected Lineup

Detroit

(Hopefully) Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond

Los Angeles

D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Nick Young, Julius Randle, Timofey Mozgov

Prediction

There is no reason to be optimistic if you’re a Pistons fan. They’ve just been embarrassed in back to back nationally televised games. They’ve looked lost, tired, and like they’d rather be doing anything else but playing the game of basketball. Who can blame them? It’s been equally hard for the fans to watch what’s become of this team. With all of that being said, for some reason I do have (a microcosm of) hope that they’ll be able to turn this thing around, starting with a win against a frankly bad Laker team.

Detroit 100, LA 96.

Community Question?

Hope. You got any? If so, why?