Pistons come back, then come back again, but tank hits empty as Lakers squeak one out
Three quick observations from Sunday night’s 106-99 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center
A GOOD FIGHT – Dwane Casey said before the game – with the Pistons playing their fifth of a six-game road trip and their third game in four nights, on a back to back – that the one thing the Pistons couldn’t afford was to not play hard. It seemed to be asking a lot of a team missing four key players. And when the Pistons fell behind 15-2, it would have been easy to go through the motions and take their lumps in a game a Pistons team at full strength and not at a rest disadvantage wouldn’t have been expected to win. Instead, the Pistons outscored the Lakers 32-19 in the third quarter – Derrick Rose started coming out of the locker room for the second straight game, Casey’s remedy for sluggish third quarters – and took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter. Then it all seemed to catch up with the Pistons. The Lakers opened the quarter on a 15-0 run as the Pistons went their first 10 possessions without scoring, committing turnovers to end four of them. Langston Galloway’s runner with 7:42 left stopped the onslaught, but that only pulled the Pistons within nine points. But the Pistons kept charging, pulling within two with a 9-0 run and taking the lead with 4:51 to go. The Lakers went back ahead by four points when Rose’s triple with 1:52 pulled the Pistons within a point. But Anthony Davis answered with a triple and the Pistons came up empty on their next trip, finally running out of gas. Rose led six Pistons in double figures with 28 points. Andre Drummond had 12 points and 18 rebounds.
ANOTHER LINEUP – Dwane Casey juggled his starting lineup – giving the Pistons their 17th different configuration this season, tied with Golden State for the NBA’s most – to match up against Lakers All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With Davis and James surrounding JaVale McGee, Casey supersized his frontcourt to allow the willowy Wood to match up with Davis and Doumbouya to slot in at small forward opposite James. Tony Snell moved to the backcourt to guard elite 3-point shooter Danny Green and Svi Mykhailiuk went to the bench. It was the third career start for both Doumbouya and Wood; for James, it was the 1,233rd career start and for Davis the 495th. Doumbouya didn’t have his third straight double-double, but he also didn’t look overwhelmed playing against James, doing a creditable job of staying in front of him without excessive fouling. Doumbouya, who was two months shy of his third birthday when James made his NBA debut in October 2003, fouled out late – a call that caused Casey to wave his arms in disgust – and finished with 11 points and five rebounds in 34 minutes.
BLOCK PARTY – One reason the Pistons struggled offensively and shot poorly: The Lakers blocked 20 shots, including 12 in the first half – or 30 percent of the shots the Pistons attempted. If the Pistons made a halftime adjustment, it didn’t show up immediately. The Lakers accumulated four more blocked shots in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Davis finished with eight blocks, McGee with six and Howard with five as the Lakers wound up blocking 25.6 percent of the Pistons 78 shots. The 20 blocked shots were the most in the NBA since Toronto blocked 20 Golden State shots in 2001. Davis, McGee and Howard rank among the top 18 shot blockers in Davis (third), McGee (11th) and Howard (tied for 17th). Andre Drummond, who came into the game tied for seventh in blocked shots, picked up four more. Perhaps related to the Lakers blocking 20 shots was the fact the Pistons shot 35 free throws, making 30 to stay in the game.