The Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons 106-96 thanks to (for a change) a good third quarter. LAL is now 5-13 after back-to-back wins and is 4-0 against teams from the Eastern Conference while the Pistons fell to 3-15 (yuck).
The game started out as ugly as you might with both teams sporting a combined 7-27 record. Carlos Boozer provided the early offense for LA, notching 8 points in the first quarter. Kobe looked, for lack of a better word, tired in the first quarter and didn’t score until the third quarter. But as he often does when his shots not falling, he played the facilitator role and found his teammates for open looks early and often. That kept LAL close in the first period despite shooting under 40%.
The game remained close in the second quarter and the lead changed hands multiple times. The bench provided a nice spark tonight, led by Swaggy P as is so often the case. Young came off the bench looking for buckets and was successful in finding them after an 0-4 start. He finished with a classic Nick Young scoreline of 19 points, 1 rebound and a goose egg in the assist column.
The third quarter is where this game was won. Kobe came to life, scoring a quick 12 points to help the Lakers build a lead that swelled to 19 points at one point. Jordan Hill continued his strong play (particularly on the offensive glass), knocking down both open jumpers that usually came on the heels of Bryant’s getting into the lane and connected on a few nice jump hooks on his way to 22 points and 13 rebounds. He’s been a bright spot for the Lakers in a season where there haven’t been many.
It would have been nice for the Lakers to maintain the advantage they built in the third quarter to enable to starters to rest with a game against the 11-5 Wizards tomorrow night. But that wasn’t the case, as some sloppy play allowed the Pistons to cut the lead to 8 with 5 minutes to play, which prompted Byron Scott to put Jeremy Lin and Kobe back in the game to secure the win. And that’s exactly what they did. Despite turning the ball over 10 time (!!!), Kobe finished with 12 points and 13 assists. In his last two games, #24 has totaled 25 assists. While there’s no doubt LA needs Kobe to be their first option offensively, he’s clearly the teams best passer/facilitator and it would serve the team better if Kobe played the facilitator role more often.
While two wins in a row are always nice, it’s important to keep in the mind the quality (or lackthereof) of the of opponent tonight. The Pistons have been putrid as of late- tonight marked their ninth consecutive loss. They looked lost on the offensive end, having seemingly no gameplan, and were out-hustled throughout tonight’s game. But the Lakers will take any win they can get, and they head to Washington tomorrow riding a two-game win streak.
Let’s hope the improved offensive play (all 5 starters were in double figures tonight for the second consecutive game) continues tomorrow night in Washington. The Wizards are a much, much better team than the Pistons are, and if the Lakers don’t come to play, a blowout is a real possibility.