Lakers’ New Starting Unit Seeks Second Straight Win in Detroit

By: Michael Taylor (@LFRMBT)


On Monday night, the Lakers steamrolled the Knicks after swapping veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black in the starting lineup. Although Black posted an insane +34 and net rating of 78 against the Knicks, his minutes could be limited against Andre Drummond’s size, as Black tends to struggle against bigger, more traditional NBA centers. There’s a chance that Luke inserts Mozgov into the starting unit to matchup with Drummond (and appease Moz), but after the success in New York, he might roll with his adjustment to see what this lineup can do against a team who hasn’t completely given up on the season (ahem, Knicks). Let’s take a deeper look into the January 15th game against the Pistons to see how the Lakers can adjust in order to snag their second straight win.  


In the previous game the Lakers played the Pistons, Ish Smith gave his team a nice boost off the bench — posting a +17 on the night in only 20 minutes.

Why it Worked: Julius Randle is slow to get back on defense, essentially creating a 5 on 4 opportunity for Detroit. Baynes sets the drag screen for Smith at the elbow, giving him enough space to survey the floor as well as pulling Black out a few more feet from the basket. Since Harris (presumably Randle’s man) is unguarded, he cuts directly to the basket. Ingram is too late in reacting to Harris’ cut through the lane, and Smith hits Harris for an easy dunk.

How to Adjust: Whenever the Pistons insert Smith into the game for Reggie Jackson, they transform into a faster team that opts for transition/early offense. The Lakers are 28th in the NBA in giving up fast break points, surrendering 15.0 PPG. In all cases, the Lakers need to get back in transition, but especially when Ish Smith comes in. The Lakers aren’t proficient enough on defense to go long stretches without everyone back on defense. In transition/early offense, Los Angeles needs to be clear in calling out defensive assignments. 


Pistons’ Spacing

Why it Worked: The play starts out in horns with Smith passing to Drummond, then cutting to set a stagger screen for Stanley Johnson. Drummond then goes into a dribble handoff with Marcus Morris. Nick Young goes under Drummond’s screen, giving Morris enough space to rise and drill the three.

How to Adjust: Stan Van Gundy is notorious for running four out to maximize the pace inside the three-point line to run pick and roll with Drummond. The combo of Morris and Harris shot 6-15 from three (23 points each), which opens the floor for plays like this.

At 34.1%, Marcus Morris is not an elite three-point shooter and Nick Young probably does right by going under Drummond to cut off a possible drive. However, he needs to do a better job fighting Morris to get to the spot that Morris wants to get to. Drummond is extremely unlikely to take off and drive to the basket, so when he dribbles in the half court, he’s looking to hand off to someone who can handle the rock or drain it from outside. Instead of following Morris, Young should jump his path. Although this might lead to a back-cut, the Lakers would do well in taking their chances with Drummond trying to make that pass.



D’Angelo Russell had a nice game scoring 20 points in just 26 minutes, with 14 points were a result of shots in or around the paint.

Aggressive Russell is the best Russell. Throughout the game, D’Angelo did a great job of attacking the smaller Detroit guards and getting into the paint. When his shot is falling, it sets up his passing.

Here, he’s posted up on the smaller Reggie Jackson, as Baynes hedges, Mozgov slips the screen, Russell throws a beautiful no look over the head pass. Due to Detroit having smaller guards, the Lakers would be wise to run their offense through Russell, and let him take advantage of the height differential.

MBT: “This clip below isn’t relevant; I just think it was funny how D’Lo broke Andre’s ankles and no one noticed.”

***Editor’s Note*** 

Michael thought we wouldn’t include this video, but we have to so y’all can understand why dude is so fired up about DAR (& why you should be, too). 

Notes: Andre Drummond is shooting a career best from the free throw line this season with .438%. If he gets close to the basket, FOUL THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY. The Pistons are 1st in the league in DREB% and the Lakers are 7th in OREB%, so the winner of this game will likely control this key area — Tarik Black’s energy (15.2 OREB %) could come in handy in the starting lineup. Both teams are bottom 5 in the league in AST%, so you’ll probably see a lot of stagnant offense with below average assist totals. With their traditional back-to-the-basket center Andre Drummond, the Pistons play the 5th slowest pace in the league (96.76), and the Lakers would benefit from pushing the pace and trying to control tempo in their favor.