Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ clash with the Detroit Pistons on Halloween night.
1) Lakers’ defense has been surprisingly good
Sure it’s a small sample size, but few would have predicted that the Lakers would be ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in defensive efficiency at all this season.
Yet here they are at No. 10, having given up only 100.9 points per 100 possessions. It has been a stark improvement from the past four years — all of which were spent among the league’s bottom three in defense.
Several factors have contributed to this hot start. The Lakers spent the offseason bringing in plus defenders, like former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Hart — who have competed nonstop on the wings — and Brook Lopez, who contests just about everything in the paint.
But L.A.’s returning players have also stepped up their defense, particularly Julius Randle, who has been the key to he second unit’s success. Randle has been excellent as a small-ball center, especially because of his ability to switch onto guards in pick-and-rolls.
Finally, there is also a sense of defensive cohesion among the players.
“We’re playing together defensively,” Lonzo Ball said at Monday’s practice. “We’re not letting guys just hang out on an island. We’ve got help on both sides and the bigs coming over as well.”
2) Luke wants the offense to go even faster
The Lakers have run the NBA’s fourth-fastest pace thus far, but coach Luke Walton is telling them to shift a few gears higher.
With Ball’s excellent vision in transition, Walton wants all the fast-breaks he can get. Plus, given the team’s youth and athleticism, a generally faster game could help run slower opponents off the floor.
But with speed come mistakes, especially for young teams. And the Lakers have been especially turnover-prone, leading the league with 18.8 per game.
Still, the pace also giveth, as seen from 16.8 fast-break points a night (third in the NBA) and a league-best 54.0 points in the paint.
Now the challenge is creating some spacing by finally hitting some 3-pointers. L.A. is last in both 3-point percentage (27.8) and made triples (6.7).
3) Pistons look really impressive
The season couldn’t have started much better for Detroit, which is 5-2 after winning three in a row — including over reigning-champion Golden State on Sunday.
The most obvious task for the Lakers will be containing 7-footer Andre Drummond, who is averaging 12.9 points and the league’s third-most rebounds (14.4). Few players have his talent for crashing the offensive glass and turning a successful defensive possession into a demoralizing put-back.
Drummond also has fast hands, as evidenced by his 2.3 steals per contest — sixth in the league — and is finally making free throws this year at 14-of-20, after shooting an NBA-worst 38.6 percent at the line last season.
And while Drummond is a beast, Tobias Harris is a fire-starter.
The former Tennessee Volunteer has thrived as the team’s clear power forward, having spent much time at the three last year when Marcus Morris was still on the roster.
Bigger defenders haven’t been able to keep up with Harris, who has been spotting up on the perimeter and hitting a 19-of-41 clip from deep. The results have been scorching, as he is averaging 20.9 points and already has two games with more than 30.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A. NBA TV nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
Click here to view game notes for this contest.
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A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Oct 30, 2017 at 3:28pm PDT