The Lakers (10-15) wrap up their six-game Detroit road trip against the Pistons (7-21) on Sunday. Game tips at 3:00 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet and ESPN Radio 710.
Here are three things to know before the game:
For the 2nd consecutive season, the Lakers are among the league leaders in number of starting formations used. In 25 games this year, the Lakers have already used 14 different starting groups, with no unit starting more than four games (two groups).
It’s no coincidence that the Lakers’ most-used roster this season has logged just 51 minutes together, the lowest total minutes for the most-used group of any team.
In fact, across the entire NBA, there have been 80 rosters that have played at least 50 minutes together. Only four teams have a single roster that appears on this list and the Lakers are the only one of those teams whose roster has less than 100 minutes played together:
- Timber wolves: 260
- Spurs: 141
- Pelicans: 113
- Lakers: 51
On the other end of the spectrum, the Mavericks have five teams that have played at least 50 minutes together, leading the league. And there are seven teams that have four or more rosters (76ers, Knicks, Hornets, Magic, Suns, Clippers, Rockets).
On the plus side, while the Lakers don’t have many lineups that appear on this list, the one that does has performed well overall. The group of Russ, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker, Austin Reaves and AD have a net rating of +13.5, which is 15th best among those 80 rosters.
THE BLUES OF THE 1ST QUARTER
Whether this could be related to the different starting lineups and accompanying continuity challenges is an open question, but the Lakers continue to struggle in the early quarters this season.
Against the 76ers, the Lakers trailed by 11 points after the first 12 minutes, which has been an unfortunate trend throughout the year.
Below is the Lakers’ rankings in net rating by quarter:
- 1st: 23d (-8.1)
- 2nd: 1st (+16.7)
- 3rd: 28th (-9.1)
- 4th: 25th (-4.2)
It’s a common refrain in which the Lakers have had their third quarter challenges this season. Just as it’s a familiar notion to see the team make huge runs in the second quarters. Both of these ideas are supported by the numbers above.
But the team’s first-half struggles aren’t as often discussed, and finding ways to get off to better starts can do wonders for this team, especially against the backdrop of their second-quarter success.
Finding ways to even play in (if not outright win) more opening periods while continuing their strong second quarters would give the Lakers big advantages heading into halftime and make some of their second-quarter challenges easier to manage.
MATCH WITH THE PISTONS
The last time these teams played LeBron, the Lakers 128-121 win didn’t happen, but Anthony Davis was the star of the show, with 38 points and 16 rebounds. Davis went 10-16 from the field and, shooting a plethora of fouls, hit 18 of 21 attempts from the foul line against an overmatched Pistons forward court.
Whether or not the Lakers can expect similar production remains to be seen, but returning to AD to test the Pistons’ defensive mettle and see if he can pick up where he left off is a good place to start. Davis, after a 31-point effort — including 21 points in the 4th quarter — against Joel Embiid and the 76ers on Friday should see the ball early and often in an attempt to build on that momentum.
At the other end of the floor, the Lakers must find a way to slow Bojan Bogdanovic. With Cade Cunningham still out with an injured shin, Bogdanovic is Detroit’s main option and he handled that burden well. In his last five games, he’s hit 58.6% of his nearly six attempts from behind the arc en route to 20.6 points per game. He must be marked all over the floor and forced to put the ball on the ground in order to create shots off the dribble.
Finally, just like the last game between these teams, the Lakers would do well to attack the paint and put Detroit in a position to foul. Their 23.0 fouls committed per game lead the league and the 25.4 free throws attempted by the opponent are the 3rd worst in the NBA. Just as AD strolled to the line for 21 attempts on its own last game, the whole team should continue to be aggressive – especially LeBron – in hopes of earning whistles and trips to the charity band.