Statistically, the Detroit Pistons (5-18) are the worst team in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers sit behind the Utah Jazz at the top of the Western Conference. And yet, the defending champs found themselves in a second contest this season mired in a struggle against the lowly Pistons.
The first time around, Detroit, behind Blake Griffin, surprised the Lakers on Jan. 28 with a convincing 107-92 win. In that game, the Lakers were minus the services of forward Anthony Davis. Davis was in the starting lineup against the Pistons, which didn’t have Griffin out on the floor. And still, this was a grind of a game for the Lakers to get through.
All it took was LeBron James racking up over 46 minutes to pour in 33 points and 11 assists. It took Davis putting in work for a shade over 44 minutes and scoring 30 points. And it took six players to score in double-figures for the Lakers to secure a 135-129 double-overtime win against the Pistons at STAPLES Center on the eve of Super Bowl Sunday.
The win was the Lakers’ 18th of the season, keeping Los Angeles just a step ahead of the Clippers (17-7) and just a notch below the Jazz (18-5) in the win-loss column. The win also shows the resiliency of the Lakers, something they’ve shown all season. The Lakers went up by double-figures in the second quarter, sparked by a 36-point scoring outburst.
But the Lakers then watched Detroit whittle away at their lead. And just like their defeat in Detroit less than two weeks ago, the Lakers couldn’t hit the 20-point mark in the fourth period. In that game, one of the team’s six defeats, the Lakers scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter. It almost deja vu for the Lakers in this home game.
Detroit managed to hold the Lakers to 18 points in the final period while outscoring them 28-18 to send the game into overtime. Detroit actually had an opportunity to win the game but couldn’t convert a last-second field goal attempt. After an exhausting and extended road trip in January, the Lakers, including victories against the Denver Nuggets and Pistons, have a total of 10 dates at home during the month of February.
This may help the Lakers improve on their home record. For the season, the Lakers have played like a much more superior ballclub than when they play at home. Thus far, on the road, the Lakers have posted a 12-2 mark. Their record at home is nothing to shout home to momma about with Los Angeles barely treading over .500 with a 6-4 mark, including its victory against Detroit.
The next set of home dates for the Lakers include back-to-back contests against the Oklahoma City Thunder and then a game against the Memphis Grizzlies. The two dates to watch on the Lakers’ schedule are Feb. 18 and Feb. 20. That’s when the Lakers will entertain Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets and Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
The Lakers defeated the Heat to win the NBA title last season. And the Nets, with the super triplets of Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, are considered to be favorable contenders for the Eastern Conference crown. Now, back to the game at hand. With James scoring 33 points and Davis adding his 30, it was the first time this season that two players from the Lakers had reached that magical 30-point plateau in the same game this season.
They needed every single one of those points because Detroit players Jerami Grant (32 points) and Josh Jackson (28 points) brought their hard hats and lunch pails with them and were making plays to give the Pistons an opportunity to beat the Lakers twice this season. Jackson scored 25 of his 28 points after halftime, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Grant dropped in 19 points after intermission.
But when it mattered most, James and the Lakers’ defense created the necessary separation in the second overtime. James scored eight of his game-high totals in the second overtime and the Lakers held the Pistons to 45 percent field goal shooting in the period. More significantly, the Lakers put the clamps on Detroit’s long-distance shooting.
For the game, Detroit made 16 of their 42 attempted 3-point shots. The Pistons would only connect on 1 of 6 of their 3-point tries in the second overtime, good enough just for 16 percent. The Lakers, on the other hand, made three of four of their 3-point trays. That turned out to be the difference as the Lakers outscored Detroit in the period, 17-11.