Flat Finish

16-0 Lakers run wraps up Pistons road trip on a downer


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

WHITE HOT – WHITE HOT – Nick Young hit consecutive 3-pointers to spark a 16-0 Lakers run that began late in the third quarter after the Pistons led for almost the entire game to that point, the Lakers dominating the game’s final 14 minutes to win going away, 114-99. Jordan Hill had a career night for the Lakers with 24 points and 17 rebounds. The Detroit frontcourt of Josh Smith (18 points, eight rebounds), Greg Monore (17 points, seven rebounds) and Andre Drummond (14 points, 13 rebounds) did most of their damage in the first half when they combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds and made 15 of 20 shots. Brandon Jennings heated up late, scoring 19 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to go with a Pistons career-best 14 assists. The Pistons finished their weeklong Western Conference road trip 1-3, winning at Sacramento on Friday after losing earlier in the week at Portland and Golden State.

BLUE COLLAR – With both Chauncey Billups (left knee) and Will Bynum (left hamstring) inactive, the Pistons were back to the thin backcourt that plagued them throughout the preseason. But Rodney Stuckey played another strong all-around game off the bench and was an especially efficient scorer in the second quarter when he hit 6 of 8 shots, including a few tough baseline turnarounds. Stuckey logged 30 minutes off the bench and finished with 16 points.

RED FLAG – The Pistons shot 62.5 percent in the first half, yet led by just six points at halftime in large measure because of their turnovers and the nature of them. Most came in live-ball circumstances and the Lakers were effective in taking advantage before the Pistons could get their defense set. Their inability to take a dominant lead after such an otherwise efficient offensive half caught up to them when they made only 7 of 25 shots in the third quarter, opening the door for the Lakers to pull away.

LOS ANGELES – Their game, and the Pistons’ road trip, both ended the same way: with a thud.

Both the Pistons and Lakers had one great offensive half. Somehow, that added up to a 15-point Pistons loss, ending their four-game road trip on a low after an exhilarating win at Sacramento two nights earlier.

The Pistons simply didn’t do enough with their 62 percent first half when they dominated in the paint. By halftime, all three of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith were on their way to double-doubles, having combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds. Only Drummond got there (14 points, 13 rebounds), and the double-double that leaps off the box score wasn’t Brandon Jennings’ 23 points and 14 assists – he scored 19 in the fourth quarter as the Pistons fought from 19 down – but the 24 points and 17 rebounds of Jordan Hill, both career bests.

For all the gaudy numbers the Pistons could point to on their side, it was Hill’s monster night, the 16 assists of Steve Blake and the 19 off the bench from Nick Young – especially the two triples late in the third quarter that sparked a 16-0 Los Angeles run – that told the story of a game the Pistons expected to win after Friday’s victory at Sacramento ended their Western Conference road drought.

If you had to boil Sunday’s 114-99 loss down, it came to this: While the Pistons were smoking in the first half, punishing the Lakers at the rim with 32 points in the paint, the Lakers were doing enough to stay close. The Pistons led by nine at one point, but they could never make the back-breaking basket or go on a suffocating defensive stand to allow them to pull away.

And when the Lakers heated up in the second half, the Pistons couldn’t reciprocate, couldn’t do enough to stay close until the game regained its equilibrium. After leading for virtually the entire game, once Young’s triples put them down by four, the seemed disoriented, going 12 straight possessions without a basket.

"Offense comes and goes, but defensively I think we should have stayed in tune to our philosophies. That’s where we let the game slip away, on the defensive end.”

- Josh Smith on team defense
Full game quotes
“It gave them some confidence,” Maurice Cheeks said. “They had missed some shots, then they made one and they made two and that kind of steamrolled into making more shots. That’s what shooters do. They can go on a roll from there.”

“That’s a momentum switch for anybody,” Drummond said. “Somebody hits two threes in a row, that’s a big switch. It got them going. Jodie Meeks (19 points, 4 of 7 triples, two of them in the early fourth-quarter run) got going and things just started going their way.”

“I think that was kind of the turning point,” Monroe said. “They pretty much controlled the game from that point on. We definitely had a lot of opportunities to kind of distance ourselves and really take full control of the game and we just didn’t do it. We got a little stagnant on offense. We kind of got away from our principles on defense. It’s something that coaches say every day – we have to play hard and compete for 48 minutes, and I don’t think we did that tonight.”

The Pistons played shorthanded in their backcourt, missing not only Chauncey Billups, out for the second straight game with left knee tendinitis, but Will Bynum, as well, who has a sore left hamstring and a sore groin, he said before the game.

That meant a second straight start for rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, whose best moments came early in the third quarter when he knocked down two mid-range jump shots, one when he came off a tight curl and the other when he passed up a 3-pointer to step inside the arc. But it was emblematic of the night when Caldwell-Pope missed his next two shots, taken in rhythm, that would have allowed the Pistons to stretch their lead and perhaps suffocate the Lakers’ confidence in their ability to ever catch up.

“Obviously, we could’ve had a little bigger lead,” Monroe said. “We think it could have been a little spread out coming into halftime, but that’s beside the point. We could have played better in the first half, but we still had control of the game. We have to come out and continue to control the game. We just lost sight of that. You have to give them credit, though. Those guys made shots. They definitely caught fire. I think we could have done a couple of things different to stop the momentum at one point, but they definitely made a lot of shots.”

That they did, almost matching the Pistons’ red-hot first half by knocking down 27 of 44, 61.4 percent. The difference was the Pistons’ miserable stretch – a 28 percent third quarter, those 12 straight empty possessions – that didn’t resemble anything like the Lakers endured while withstanding Detroit’s first-half barrage.

“We could have (been ahead by more than six at halftime), but we weren’t,” Cheeks shrugged. “Then we came out in the third quarter and missed consecutive shots. It put us in a hole and we just couldn’t recover.”