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Pistons vs. Lakers Preview: Wins needed with playoffs uncertain

Detroit might get a boost from the Lakers resting LeBron James

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just five days ago the Pistons were the talk of the NBA due to an impressive 12-2 run during a 14-game stretch, that featured the league’s top offense at that time. They were finally being discussed across mainstream NBA media outlets with the narrative being “look out for this team once the playoffs start.” Well ... this week could not have gone worse for Detroit, and the playoffs are by no means a lock with 15 games remaining.

Not only did they suffer back-to-back blowout losses to teams vying for playoff positioning in the East, they might have lost Reggie Jackson for a few games as well. Jackson went down with a twisted ankle midway through the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat when Detroit was already down by more than 20 points.

Now the question remains; how will the Pistons respond? Tonight’s game against the Lakers is one of Detroit’s most important of the season with the Raptors on deck and then then a four-game road trip. I’ll go out on a limb and say they’ll need to score more than 80 points to secure a win, a feat they’ve failed to accomplish in their last two games. Let’s hope their #PlayoffPush doesn’t come to a halt four weeks early.

Game Vitals

When: Friday, 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit, NBA TV

Analysis

Who are the Detroit Pistons? Are they more like the team that was recently leading the league in offensive rating, net rating, and 3-point shooting? Or are they more like the team that averaged 74.5 points per game, while shooting 23 percent from 3 over their last two games? Clearly they aren’t the the best team in the league, or a G-League team who found themselves in the NBA as some sort of prank - but their recent play should be concerning since their effort has been non-existent so far this week.

If Detroit is going to start to turn things around, a Blake Griffin sighting against LA would be more than welcome, especially since Jackson’s status is unknown. Since the All-Star break concluded, Griffin’s numbers have dipped to 18.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists, and he’s shooting just 42 percent from the field, 34 percent from 3 and 69 percent from the free-throw stripe during that 11-game stretch. The Pistons will go as far as Griffin can take them, and they need him now more than ever with just one month left in the regular season.

For the Lakers, they may be without LeBron James, who is on a minutes restriction and could sit on the second night of back to backs. LA played Toronto on Thursday night, so if the report holds true, the Lakers will be without LeBron James, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Ingram is sidelined for the rest of the season due to a blood clot, and Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 19 due to a season-ending ankle injury.

The Lakers tumultuous season has been on full display for most of the 2018-19 season, but they are not a team embracing the full on tank strategy. They’ve already beat Detroit without LeBron James, a game that featured Kyle Kuzma dropping a career-high 41 points against his hometown team. And there’s that Piston revenge game narrative at play, since Reggie Bullock will be playing his former team for the first time since he was traded at the deadline.

Now Detroit should still escape Friday night’s game with a win. They should have the best player on the court in Griffin, and Andre Drummond is due for a bounce-back game, seeing how his franchise-tying 19 straight double double streak was recently snapped against the Heat, but they’ll need to hit the 3 at a respectable clip, and their bench will need to outplay the depleted Lakers second unit.

Lineups

Detroit
Jose Calderon (gulp), Bruce Brown Jr., Wayne Ellington, Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond

Los Angeles
Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Bullock, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee

Prediction

Detroit 108, LA 100