(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)
Lakers at Pistons: 3 Things to Know (3/15/19)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers finish the back-to-back with a visit to the Detroit Pistons.
1) Homecoming Kuz is looking for a repeat
The Lakers’ annual trip to Michigan holds extra significance for Flint native Kyle Kuzma, who hopes to duplicate his scorching night against the Pistons in January.
Two months ago the sophomore erupted for a career-high 41 points — despite not playing a single second of the fourth quarter.
Kuzma, who scored 22 points in the third quarter, worked his childhood team inside and out, shooting 11-of-13 in the paint with five 3-pointers.
And Kuz isn’t the only one with some extra motivation in this game, as it will also be reunion time for fellow Flintstone JaVale McGee and former Pistons Reggie Bullock and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. On the other side, Svi Mykhailiuk, Jose Calderon and Wayne Ellington are facing their old team as well.
2) Matchup to watch: Blake vs. ???
LeBron James will not play this leg of the back-to-back due to load management, giving the Lakers an extra challenge at the power forward spot.
Detroit’s Blake Griffin ranks among the NBA’s top 15 in scoring, and is capable of getting buckets from most any spot. He is fourth in the NBA in post-up points and second among big men in 3-pointers.
While LeBron’s status will obviously have a large impact on the Lakers’ shot at winning, it’s worth noting that he and Griffin didn’t often match up in their previous outing.
That job fell upon Kuzma, who executed a game plan that involved encouraging Griffin to shoot jumpers and trusting that his teammates would react quickly and double-team Detroit’s star at the right moments. The strategy worked, with Griffin needing 14 shots to reach 16 points, while also going without a rebound for the only time in his career.
3) Pistons are suddenly stalling out
For more than a month, Detroit was hotter than any team in the NBA, sporting a league-best 12-2 record until its last two games.
That’s when turbulence struck hard. Detroit — which had beaten its opponents by an average of 11.7 points during that 14-game surge — suffered a 28-point loss to Brooklyn and received a 34-point beatdown from Miami.
The offense has cratered in this last pair of contests, averaging 74.5 points on 31.0 percent shooting and 22.5 percent from 3-point range.
But the Pistons will look to get back into top gear at home, where they have won seven straight games. In addition to Griffin, L.A. will need to keep the league’s leading rebounder, Andre Drummond, in check. And the speedy Lakers will seek to control the tempo against a Pistons club that has run the league’s slowest pace in recent weeks.
Lakers: Reggie Bullock (left foot contusion) and Lance Stephenson (left foot, second toe sprain) are probable. Josh Hart (right knee tendinitis) is questionable. LeBron James (load management, groin), Tyson Chandler (neck stiffness), Brandon Ingram (DVT, right arm) and Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) are out.
Pistons: Bruce Brown (right ankle discomfort) is probable. Reggie Jackson (right ankle discomfort) is questionable.
Tip-Off: 4 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Little Caesar’s Arena — Detroit, Michigan