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NBA Lakers at Pistons Preview

February 08, 2007

NBA Basketball - L.A. Lakers at Detroit Pistons (-4.5, 193.5) 8:00 PM EST

The Lakers (30-19) are getting close to finishing their toughest road trip of the season, but still face one of their biggest challenges yet.

In the midst of a demanding eight-game tour around the country, the Lakers are 3-2, with this game holding the key to whether coach Phil Jackson can call the journey a success.

The Lakers go into this game as 4.5 point underdogs, and they will be made to work from start to finish by a confident Pistons outfit that has won eight of its past 10 games.

Chauncey BillupsDetroitís (29-18) latest victim was Boston, who they clinically disposed of, 109-102 on Tuesday night. Chauncey Billups led the rout with 24 points, setting the stage for an enthralling duel with Bryant tonight.

Bryant also comes into this game in impressive form, having led the Lakers to a 90-83 win over Atlanta on Monday night. The Lakers drawcard came up with 27 points, but it is when he scored them that should be of most concern to the Pistons.

Bryant was content to cruise through the first three quarters of a tight encounter before exploding in the final period. Bryant scored 11 points in the 4th, including nine straight, to prove the difference between the teams.

While Bryant is the obvious big concern for the Detroit defense, they will also need to silence center Andrew Bynum and forward Lamar Odom.

The trio are the key to an inside and outside offensive attack, and against the Hawks, no other player reached double figures. But stopping such a formidable threesome is tougher than it sounds.

Bynum and Odom grabbed 28 rebounds between them against the Hawks, while Odom scored 15 points and Bynum 14.

While the Pistons donít have one dominant scorer like Bryant, Detroitís current five starters are all averaging in double digits. Newly acquired power forward, Chris Webber has made an immediate impact, including 17 points against the Celtics.

Off the bench comes the powerful Antonio McDyess. He played with supreme confidence versus Boston, making his first eight shots, as the Pistons warmed up for tonightís big game.

Billups reached a significant milestone against the Celtics, landing his 700th career three-pointer for the Pistons. That serves as a clear warning to coach Jackson that he canít afford to let his defense give the Pistonsí sharpshooter any free looks from three-point range.

Summing Up: As with any Lakers game, Bryant is the key. If he isnít hassled from the start, and can get into a rhythm, the Lakers will be tough to beat. The Pistonsí home record (14-9) isnít as imposing as they would like, but a win tonight would be a great confidence boost for their big games ahead.

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