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Pistons vs. Lakers preview: Detroit welcomes back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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KCP and the better-than-expected Lakers play their first game in LCA

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Lakers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the 2017-18 season, the Los Angeles Lakers were projected to win a total of 33 games, per ESPN’s real plus-minus wins projection. The Lakers are currently sitting at 32 wins, with nine games left on their schedule. They should, as long as the wheels don’t completely fall off, easily surpass their season projection.

The Baby Lakers won the first meeting against Detroit 113-93, all the way back in October, when the future seemed ultra-bright for the Pistons. Detroit will wrap up the season series Monday night, this time at Little Caesars Arena. They welcome back Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, in his first game since back in Detroit (albeit a new arena) since the Pistons let him walk in free agency last July. May #PayKCP live on, for another fan-base, this summer.

Game Vitals

When: Monday, March 26th, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, MI
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA League Pass
Odds: Detroit -4.5

Analysis

The Lakers’ rookie class of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have helped jump-start what was supposed to be a lengthy, organic rebuilding process. Of course, that process is only lengthy and organic if the Lakers can’t land a major free agent acquisition, like Paul George or LeBron James.

The Pistons have played the true bottom-feeders of the NBA in three of their last four games. They’ve come away with three wins against the Bulls, Kings and Suns, who have a combined record of 67-154. Detroit most recently clobbered the Chicago Bulls by 22 points on Saturday night.

This game should be a better litmus test of where the Pistons are late in the season. The Lakers are not world-beaters by any means, but they play at a competitive level, and have quality young guys (the previously mentioned rookies, Julius Randle, Steve Hinson’s nemesis Brandon Ingram) coupled with contributing vets (Brook Lopez, Isaiah “Brinks Truck” Thomas, KCP - is he a vet yet?). KCP, in particular, has bounced back from a bumpy start this season to put together a solid season in LA, averaging 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds on 43 percent shooting from the floor and 40 percent from three, both career highs.

Reggie Jackson will have his hands full being guarded by Ball, who’s currently averaging 10.1 points, 7.2 assists and 7 rebounds per game. While Ball hasn’t necessarily shot well in his rookie season (35 percent from the floor, 30 percent from three), he has first-team all defense potential, and is already averaging 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks per game. Among rookies, Ball ranks second in steals per game, and fourth in blocks per game. If Jackson passes this test with flying colors, take that as a moral victory as this season nears its end.

Projected Lineups

Detroit - Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Reggie Bullock

Los Angeles - Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brook Lopez, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma

Prediction

Lakers’ youth outshines Detroit’s hustle.

Detroit 102, LA 108