For the first time this season, preseason included, the Lakers ended the game with more points than their opponents. After jumping out to a tone-setting 34-13 lead after the first quarter, the Lakers were finally victorious with a 108-79 win over the Pistons. With the game pretty much decided coming out of the half, I’ll spare you the details of a normal recap and share a few notes from the game.
- The Lakers came out early with a concerted effort to establish an inside game and get Dwight the ball. He was able to get an early bucket and some free throws right out of the gate. However, the Lakers had three turnovers in the first six minutes trying to force the ball inside — twice trying to get the ball to Howard and once trying to get it into Pau. They were also able to push the ball on some misses and get Dwight and Pau running the lane. Dwight took a pass from Artest late in the first after running the lane and getting position on Greg Monroe. Because it was early in the shot clock, the defense didn’t get set with enough time to double him. Howard went baseline and used the rim for protection and ended up with an easy lay up. Howard’s great play would continue throughout the whole game to the tune of 26 points on 11-13 shooting (note: I wrote his stats at the time he sat in the 3rd quarter, not thinking he’d return. I’m taking a stand an not updating the one made shot and two points in hopes that Mike Brown never, ever does that again).
- The point guard play was much improved tonight. Steve Blake filled in for Nash and played to his strengths. He pushed the ball in transition when he could, found the open man and did his best to limit turnovers. He made sure the offense was run, but rarely forced the issue (had a couple TO’s trying to get the ball in the paint when that option simply wasn’t available). When he was off the ball, he took the open three pointers when it was wise to take them and knocked down two of three. There isn’t any one thing from his line that will scream at you, but he did play a fantastic game and left his finger print all over the boxscore with six points, 6 assists, five rebounds, five steals.
- Kobe had yet another efficient basketball game. He scored 15 points on five-for-10 shooting to go along with seven rebounds and eight assists. Kobe, like Blake, came in and stuck with the game plan early. He got the ball into Dwight and Pau early and often and picked his spots wisely. He took a couple of ill-advised jumpers and a questionable layup attempt after some great ball movement early in the third quarter, but out side of that, there was really little to fault from Kobe’s game tonight. He hit a deep, contested three that got some “ooohhs” and received a brilliant pass from Ron while cutting to the basket late in the 2nd quarter that ended with an acrobatic layup that got him some “aaahhhhs”. He also threw a dagger to a wide open Howard that should have ended with his 9th assist, but Howard missed the dunk all by him self (one of Howard’s two misses) and made a great pass to Jamison in transition in garbage time (when he should have been sitting) which got Jamison to the line, but again, another non-assist. It’s not one of those memorable Kobe nights, but it was an efficient, well played game.
- Defensively, things still weren’t great, but they did look a lot better, especially limiting dribble penetration and easy looks in the paint. They did a better job of funneling perimeter players to the Lakers bigs and making guys shoot over the collective length of the team instead of getting around them. The Lakers had eight blocks as a team, largely due to the efforts of the perimeter guys putting offensive players in positions outside of their comfort zone. They were also able to get their hands on the ball and deflect some passes, strip guys on their way up for shots, and get some steals to get them out in transition. They caused 15 TOs tonight and scored 21 points off of those turnovers. Even with that, the Pistons had a 9-0 run against the Lakers starting unit by getting in the paint or in transition and the reserves gave up a 12-0 run that forced Mike Brown’s hand as he got the starters back in a rout. Overall, they moved much better as a unit. The rotations looked better than they had all year and they finished possessions with rebounds.
Yeah, the Lakers’ first win of the season was over the lowly Pistons, but they needed to start somewhere. With the news about Steve Nash being out longer than the one week originally reported it was great for the Lakers to finally get a win, and hopefully it’s something they can build on. We saw some nice things on the court tonight that they can continue to do with success no matter who the opponent is. The Lakers will have a few nights off before a matchup with the Jazz on Wednesday.