Nash-less Lakers primed for first win tonight
by Adi Joseph, USA TODAY Sports
Three top story lines for Sunday night’s four-game NBA slate (earlier, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 100-84):
Can the Los Angeles Lakers defend a team that can’t score?
Detroit Pistons at Lakers, 9:30 p.m. ET: The 0-3 Lakers should be primed to break through for their first win of the season. Despite all the consternation about the Princeton-style offense coach Mike Brown has installed, the Lakers are struggling most on defense. They rank second-to-last in points allowed per possession, while their offense is scoring at the league’s 10th-best clip. That all could be rectified against the Pistons, who are 0-2 and 25th in the NBA in points per possession. Moreover, Pistons point guard Brandon Knight is not the type of hyper-quick playmaker capable of abusing Lakers point guard Steve Blake, who is replacing Steve Nash again after Chris Paul dominated him Friday. It’s easy to say the Lakers are better than the Pistons — they’re better than most teams, even if the results don’t show it — but they also match up well. The key will be showing defensive improvements.
Is Glen Davis a go-to scorer?
Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic, 6 p.m. ET: “Big Baby” dropped 29 points on the Denver Nuggets as the Magic won their post-Dwight Howard opener. What does that mean? The Magic need a player to step up, and many expected shooting guard Arron Afflalo to be that guy. Davis is a very skilled offensive performer who has struggled against taller and more athletic defenders, but a matchup against the Suns’ Luis Scola should be favorable.
How will the Atlanta Hawks handle Kevin Durant without Josh Smith?
Hawks at Oklahoma City Thunder, 7 p.m. ET: The Thunder small forward is perhaps the toughest matchup in the NBA, but Smith is one of the most versatile and athletic defenders. He’s out with a sprained ankle. The Hawks will try to use Kyle Korver, Anthony Tolliver and DeShawn Stephenson on Durant. It probably won’t work.