Los Angeles Lakers 106-102 Detroit Pistons: Three-point shooting key in victory
Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers made it rain against the Detroit Pistons, sinking 14 shots from beyond the arc. That may not seem like much, but in comparison to Detroit’s one three-pointer, it was the difference in the game. I didn’t think the Lakers should have won the game; they trailed the majority of the contest and played awful defense all night, giving up over 80 points in the paint and playing horrible transition defense. They also allowed the Pistons’ 22 offensive rebounds, a season-high. Josh Smith led the way on the boards for Detroit, grabbing 19 of them. Good thing he was absolutely atrocious from the field, missing easy two-footers and air-balling a few of his jumpers.
Steve Blake put up another double-digit assist performance, his seventh in 10 games. However, he had five turnovers and sat most of the fourth quarter as reserve guard Jordan Farmar hit some clutch shots as time wound down. The real heroes of the Laker game were Wesley Johnson and Shawne Williams. Both haven’t been noted for their offense this season, but they both excelled tonight on the offensive and defensive end. They shot a combined 12-17 from beyond the arc and accounted for 47 of the Lakers points, as well as forcing two steals and four blocks.
The Lakers started off hot in the first quarter, with Johnson and Williams sinking a pair of three-pointers each. However, they quickly fell behind by allowing Detroit numerous fast-break points. The game was a series of runs as each team would peel off 8-10 points in a roll and then relapse and allow the other team to go on a run. Detroit seemed to get the upper hand, as they led by as many as 10 and bullied the Laker bigs in the post and paint. Second-year man Andre Drummond and recent offseason acquisition, Smith, led the way with 30 rebounds between the two of them. While they drew numerous fouls because of their offensive rebounds, Detroit lived up to its reputation of the worst free-throw shooting team, hitting 13-25 from the charity stripe.Rodney Stuckey led Detroit in scoring, with 22 off the bench.
Los Angeles entered the fourth trailing by 10. They made a nice little run to trim it to two, with Johnson and Williams each hitting a three-pointer and Farmar making a beautiful reverse lay-in on Drummond. However, lackadaisical interior defense by purple and gold allowed Detroit to pull back ahead by eight with four minutes remaining. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni called a timeout to settle the Lakers nerves and the Lakers answered with some timely defensive stops, including a highlight-reel block by Johnson on Drummond.
The tide truly turned in the Lakers favor when Nick Young got the ball with a little over a minute remaining. My father and I, watching the game on my grandparents ancient, 22-inch box Panasonic, collectively groaned because we know what happens when Young goes into one-on-one mode. He took Smith into the paint and flipped a beautiful shot in using the backboard. All in all, a very exciting game for the Lakers, something fans have gotten used to expecting after a somewhat droll team last year.
Some things I noticed during the game:
Jordan Hill: The dreaded forward from Arizona (note the pun please) went down with an ankle sprain late in the third quarter. It wasn’t reported as being too bad, but we got to see some Sacre-action as a result. Hill used to be the Lakers’ energy and hustle guy but I have to say that that title goes to Shawne Williams these days. He’s doing everything Hill is known for doing, grabbing traffic-rebounds and tip-ins. When the Lakers were down by eight in the fourth, Williams contested with Smith and Drummond for a rebound and tipped it twice, the second time, forcing it into the basket on a gorgeous backhand tip with his back facing the basket. Hill was pretty quiet before he went down with the injury anyways, with only two points and four rebounds.
Josh Smith: Smith was probably the most entertaining player for me to watch tonight. How can Detroit’s highest-paid player be one of the most pathetic shooters in the NBA? He’s J-Smooth, feared dunker and shot-blocker. Tonight, he was J-Clank, a man incapable of making a lay-in. I particularly found it amusing that the Laker announcers ripped on Smith so much during the game. The squealed with delight every time Smith popped out for a jump shot and then proceeded to question Smith’s skill-set and contract.
Pau Gasol: Man, I just don’t know what the Lakers can do about Gasol. His numbers (5-14 for 13 points, 12 rebounds) were not an accurate reflection on how bad he played. Gasol was the main reason the Lakers got beat so many times in transition defense as Drummond routinely out-ran him. The Spaniard just didn’t seem to try. You could hear him cry out every time he drove to the basket and he just didn’t look into it. He also seemed to have contracted Dwight Howard‘s hands as he was unable to catch any pass thrown with velocity in the paint today. Gasol is no longer worth his mammoth $18 million a year contract. As much as I would hate to seem him go, it really seems to be the best for this team.
Mike D’Antoni’s Coaching: I questioned a few of D’Antoni’s decisions tonight. First was the play of Robert Sacre. Sacre, the last pick of the second round last year, got six minutes of play in the fourth quarter of a pretty tightly contested game. I get that Jordan Hill is out with a sprain, but Gasol and Kaman were still on the bench. Sacre picked up an immediate moving screen foul and then couldn’t convert on a seemingly easy and-one play.
Chris Kaman seems to have fallen out of favor with D’Antoni. He no longer has major injury concerns and I still see him as a tremendous upgrade over Sacre. He’s had a beauty of a mid-range J at the beginning of this year and I just don’t see why he’s on the bench. I also didn’t like that Xavier Henry was kept on the bench for so long tonight. The rookie has proved himself last game that he deserved extended minutes this contest. It could have been because Johnson and Williams were playing so well, but Henry earned a spot to get consistent minutes in D’Antoni’s rotation.
All in all, it was an exciting game to watch. The Lakers face off against the Trailblazers on Sunday and that should be an excellent test on whether the Lakers are for real during their recent winning streak.