Pistons vs. Lakers preview: Lebron returns to LCA for first time since infamous ejection

Detroit Bad Boys

Each of the Pistons and Lakers enter tonight looking to snap losing streaks.

Detroit return home from a brief 3-game road trip where they won their first game in Miami, before dropping two straight in New Orleans and Memphis.

After a 2-10 start, the Lakers clawed their way back to a 10-12 record, before losing their past three games.

Detroit will once again be without the services of Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Livers, while the Lakers will field a fully-fit roster.

Game Vitals

When: Sunday, December 11, 6 p.m. ET
Where: Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, MI
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +5.5

Los Angeles Lakers v Detroit Pistons

Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Analysis

Three things to watch for:

1. Lebron James’ Return to LCA

The last time Lebron James and his Lakers came to town, the entire media landscape had their eyes glued to Little Caesars Arena. Lebron James and the Pistons franchise have had countless fearsome battles since the ‘Chosen One’s’ integration to the NBA in 2003.

But on this night the league-wide attention was not a product of basketball brilliance, instead people were infatuated by James’ foul-play.

Back on the 21st of November, 2021, with 9 minutes and 18 seconds to play in the third period, Jerami Grant hoisted his second of two free throw attempts. Upon the Grant’s attempt dropping through the net, Isaiah Stewart appeared to take some form of hit from James as the jostled for rebounding position. A dazed Stewart took a knee to refocus, before confronting James chest-to-chest.

From there, all hell broke loose in what was one of the most chaotic scenes since the infamous Malice at the Palace.

Tonight marks the James’ first appearance in Detroit since the infamous altercation with Stewart. Expect a raucous LCA crowd tonight.

Detroit Pistons Open Practice

Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

2 . Detroit’s remodeled front-court rotation

Prior to Friday’s contest in Memphis, Dwane Casey finally made the decision to start his 19 year-old big-man, Jalen Duren, in place of Marvin Bagley. Although the Grizzles were dominant in their 114-103 victory, the Pistons trio of bigs showed flashes of potential in their newly-stated roles.

Marvin Bagley was the standout of the three, scoring 14 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in only 20 minutes of action. He excelled against the Grizzles back-up bigs, using his athletic burst to blow-by Santi Aldama on numerous occasions for finishes in the paint.

Bagley also finished with a season-high 4 blocks. Protecting the rim is not something he’s known for, however against lesser opponents, Bagley defensive limitations are less amplified.

Stewart and Duren showed expected signs of discomfort in the first half of the Grizzles game. Duren struggled to navigate as a drop defender and Stewart often looked out of position at both ends of the floor. But, in the second half, each of them seemed to find a level of comfort, particularly offensively. Duren finished with his second straight double-double (10 points and 12 boards) and Stewart drained 3 of 6 three point attempts.

There’s going to be plenty of growing pains with the young front-court, but now is the perfect time to experiment and build chemistry.

Los Angeles Lakers v Washington Wizards

Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

3 . Anthony Davis’ Resurgence

If the season were to end today, Anthony Davis is unquestionably on every All-NBA First Team ballot. After capturing his first NBA title in 2020, Davis has dealt with a host of injuries, resulting in a pair of underwhelming seasons. The once renowned top-5 player in the NBA went from the Fearsome Brow to Day-to-Davis.

Entering the 2022-2023 season, many wondered if we had seen the last of the MVP version of Davis. With most superstars, you don’t really know it’s over until it’s too late. A third mediocre season (by Davis’ lofty standards) would likely spell the end of Davis’ prime.

Through 11 games things were shaky, Davis was averaging 23 & 10 and the Lakers were the laughing stock of the league with a pitiful 2-10 record. Davis wasn’t playing bad, but he wasn’t producing at a superstar level. However, in his last 11 games, Davis has flipped a switch, his play of late is reminiscent of the superstar we’ve come to know across his 10 year career.

Since November 13, AD is averaging 31.8 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. He’s scored 30+ in 7 of his last 11 games, including a season high 55-points against the Wizards.

His dominant play at both ends of the floor has carried the Lakers back to a respectable 10-15 record, giving them some form of postseason hope. Although the Lakers are mediocre, if Detroit are to have any chance of beating LA, they’ll need to try limit AD’s impact.

Projected Lineups

Detroit Pistons (7-21):
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren

Los Angeles Lakers (10-15):
Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker IV, Lebron James, Anthony Davis

Question of the Day

On a scale of 1-10, how much belief to you have in the Stewart and Duren front court pairing?

(1 being “I have 0 belief in it working at all” and 10 being “Stew and Duren will be the staring front court in Detroit next playoff appearance.”)

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