Still Searching

Pistons get buried early, fall to 0-3 with 29-point loss to Lakers


The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

White Hot – The Lakers were without future Hall of Famer Steve Nash, who’ll miss more than the week first projected with a slightly fractured fibula, which only left them with three future Hall of Famers in their starting lineup. Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant showed what the fuss was all about, too, scoring a combined 40 first-half points while making 16 of 23 shots and finishing with 59, 28 by Howard, as the Lakers won 108-79. Howard and Gasol combined for 21 in the first quarter, when the Lakers built a 21-point lead. They stretched it to 36 in the third quarter before Lawrence Frank pulled his starters. It was the first win of the season after the Lakers started 0-3 for the first time in 34 years. For the Pistons, now 0-3, it leaves them in a tough spot with a stretch of four road games in five nights that starts Tuesday in Denver.

BLUE COLLAR – It’s not easy to play hard and keep plugging away when the scoreboard buries you in the first quarter, but that’s just what backup forwards Jonas Jerebko and Kyle Singler did for the Pistons. Singler went on a personal 7-0 run in the second quarter to force a Lakers timeout. He led the Pistons in first-half scoring with nine points – when he broke even in plus/minus, the only Piston not in the red – and finished with 11, five rebounds and two assists. Jerebko led all Pistons with 18 points, hitting 7 of 9 free throws. Their hustle was epitomized by a play in the fourth quarter with the Pistons behind by 28 points; Singler dived to the floor for a loose ball and, from a seated position, fired a lead pass for a hard-charging Jerebko, who converted in transition. Kim English (eight points), Andre Drummond (five points, seven boards, two blocks) and Will Bynum (10 points, five assists) also played well off the bench.

RED FLAG – The nightmare start to the season continued for Rodney Stuckey. Still dealing with migraine headaches that limited him to 21 minutes in Friday’s game at Phoenix, Stuckey went 0 of 6 from the field and is now 1 of 23 for the season. Brandon Knight also struggled to put the ball in the basket at Staples Center, missing his first seven shots before scoring on a driving layup midway through the third quarter. Those were the first and only points of the game for the starting backcourt. Stuckey and Knight are now a combined 12 of 58 for the season.

LOS ANGELES – Lawrence Frank predicted before the game that the Lakers – objects of strenuous analysis in Southern California, where there is no NFL team to distract them in the autumn months – were unlikely to go 0-82 this season.

They probably aren’t going 1-81, either. There didn’t appear to be much wrong with them off of Sunday’s performance, which saw them lead the Pistons 34-13 after one quarter on their way to a 108-79 rout that leaves the Pistons 0-3 and gave the embattled Lakers their first win in four tries.

“It was total domination,” Lawrence Frank said on a night the Pistons didn’t place one starter in double figures – the first time that’s happened to them since Dec. 1, 2010 in a loss to Miami – and the starting five was outscored by Lakers starters 81-27.

The Lakers scored with way too little resistance, especially early. The twin towers, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, punished the Pistons at the rim, combining for 21 points and missing just two shots in the opening quarter. The Lakers shot 65 percent in the first quarter and 62 percent in the first half. By midway through the third quarter, when the Pistons were buried by 36 points, Frank pulled his starters.

The bench, again, played hard and reasonably well for the Pistons, giving Frank something to ponder. A 7-0 personal run by Kyle Singler in the first half sparked a bench rally that saw them cut a 21-point deficit to 14. Again in the fourth quarter, when the bench took 15 points off of the Los Angeles lead, Lakers coach Mike Brown had to send Howard and Kobe Bryant back into the game.

“We know this is a building group,” Frank said. “It’s unacceptable to get your doors blown off like we did and yet we know there’s a big disparity right now between us and the Lakers. Now, there’s no excuse acceptable to not … all that second unit did is they just played hard. They left it all out there. They’re sitting in the locker room, they got nothing left. And that’s what everyone should be doing. To me, everyone has the right intent to start the game, but once they really kicked us, we didn’t do what we needed to do in terms of a response.”

Tayshaun Prince echoed his coach’s analysis.

“We didn’t come out with the energy we wanted,” he admitted. “We don’t say to ourselves, ‘We’re not going to come out with energy.’ We always come out with the right intent, but we just have a team that when teams make a run on us, we put our head down and get frustrated as opposed to playing through it. You get a team like this, they made pretty much every shot, it seemed like, in the first quarter. You’ve got to keep your wits straight and we just didn’t have it.”

Rodney Stuckey hasn’t had it in any of the three Pistons games so far, missing all six of his shots and going scoreless. Stuckey is 1 of 23 for the season, 0 of 13 in the two road games after suffering from migraine headaches that cut short his night at Phoenix on Friday. Knight, after a fine all-around game in the loss to the Suns, shot 1 of 8 with six assists and five turnovers against the Lakers.

“Whenever a player is struggling, whether it’s shooting the ball or not doing what he usually does, it’s up to the team and the coaching staff to get him involved and try to find ways to get him out of it,” Prince said. “We’ve got to do a better job of that. At the same time, Stuckey has to be aggressive, but we’ve got to get the ball in his hands more. We haven’t put it in his hands enough.”

“We need him to play better,” Frank said. “He’s been dealing with some physical problems, but we need better from everyone.”

The bench might be exempt from such an assessment. Jonas Jerebko scored 18 points and scrapped admirably. Singler finished with 11 to go with five boards and two assists. Kim English nailed two more 3-pointers and finished with eight points, while Will Bynum had 10 points and five assists. Andre Drummond had his longest NBA stint, 22 minutes, and put up five points, seven boards and two blocks, drawing a charge when he played solid post defense on Howard.

“The bench came in and played with a lot of effort,” Singler said. “We played well. We tried to cut the lead, but it was just a tough game for us all around.”

“We just try to share the ball,” Jerebko said. “We don’t really care who scores. We were just giving a lot of energy out there, trying to play hard. We played decent today, but it still didn’t help.”