After a narrow loss against the Washington Wizards and a slender victory over the Brooklyn Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers wrap up their three-game road trip in Detroit on Friday evening. For the third time in four days, the Lakers will have a 4:30 pm PST tip-off, and the Detroit Pistons are a beatable bunch.
In fact, the Lakers recently thrashed the Pistons at Staples Center on Nov. 17.
In that game, the Steve Blake emphasized his recent elite status with a 16-assist game. At 6-9, the Pistons are good enough to be eighth in the dismal Eastern Conference. In contrast, the 8-8 Lakers still find themselves on the outside looking in for a Western Conference playoff spot.
At the Palace at Auburn Hills, however, the Pistons have been a .500 team. Although that is an improvement over their road record, the Pistons are hardly world beaters. In its last home game, the Derek Rose-less Chicago Bulls came into the Motor City and walked away with a 20-point victory.
In short, Friday night is a winnable game for the Lakers.
The Lakers have been in hot form lately, winning four of the last five games. Even the lone loss to Washington featured plenty of positives, and the Lakers are beginning to play their style of basketball regardless of the location.
The brand is highlighted by a strong bench and balanced scoring. The key to the balanced scoring has been the strong play of point guards Blake and Jordan Farmar. Their play has been so strong that Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni has left both point guards on the floor in tandem to finish the last two games. Unfortunately, that lineup has not been LA’s best and nearly cost them two games. Whether D’Antoni goes to that same backcourt in a close game remains to be seen.
Friday night, however, provides the Lakers the opportunity to finally jump on a team and put the game away early. At home, the Lakers have been able to accomplish this numerous times. On the road, LA has consistently faded in the final 12 minutes, when the basket seems to shrink and points are at a premium. Lakers fans have referred to this stretch in the game as “Kobe Time” in the past.
Although Kobe Bryant is with the team, he still maintains he does not intend to rush himself onto the court. For the time being, the Lakers seem to be doing just fine without no. 24. However, one cannot help but wonder how good this team can be with the Black Mamba in the lineup. On Friday, the Lakers will look to provide Bryant with some extra motivation to re-join the squad.
The Lakers at Pistons tips off at 4:30 pm PST.