The Los Angeles Lakers notched a gutsy 121-116 win against the Detroit Pistons after a rollercoaster of a game on Sunday.
L.A.’s defense disappointed again in the first three quarters of the game, leading to a 17-point Pistons lead. In the meantime, LeBron James raked in the second ejection of his career after punching Isaiah Stewart in the face with a closed fist.
The incident almost turned into a violent brawl as the bloodied Stewart furiously wrestled with members of Detroit’s coaching staff, trying to get loose and charge at James in revenge. Players on both sides sought to deescalate the situation with Lakers players attempting to shield the four-time NBA champion from the incensed Pistons center.
After the ball was back in play, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook took charge of the game and led L.A. to a major comeback win — firing the Lakers up to 9-9. Head coach Frank Vogel said the eventful clash could turn things around for his team.
“To me it’s one of those things that can change the momentum of your season,” Vogel said. “To see guys rally around a teammate that just got ejected like that in a strange circumstance, they played with incredible guts. Started in the third quarter when we were down 15 and in that situation, that’s the determination that this team’s gonna need.
“Those young guys played hard and we’ll get everybody’s best punch every night, so that’s how hard we got to play to get Ws. So to see that we can do it and get a tough win on the road down 15 at the start of the fourth, that’s a heck of a win for us.”
The incident between James and Stewart initially shook and disoriented the Lakers, which the Pistons used to register their biggest lead of the night. Vogel admitted Los Angeles remains a work in progress, still struggling with in-game inconsistency.
“We got to rise to the occasion and step up for a teammate that got ejected. Up until that point, we’re still figuring each other out, still learning each other,” he said.
“Some stretches look really good and some not-so-good. We’re mixing lineups to try to gain some traction. In this game, on the defensive side of the ball, some positives, some negatives.
“But the overall theme is that our guys showed the necessary determination to get a difficult win the road and hopefully we can build on it.”
Vogel emphasizes Carmelo Anthony’s leadership in comeback against Pistons
Carmelo Anthony’s shooting played a major role in the Lakers’ late rally to beat Detroit. The 37-year-old forward scored 18 points on Sunday, ending the night 5-of-8 from beyond the arc.
But besides his on-court impact, Vogel emphasized Anthony’s part in motivating L.A. to fight back despite the large deficit.
“He’s been great for us. I can’t say that strongly enough,” the coach said. “He really has been a champion for all of the right causes of what we’re trying to get done.
“And he was the one that spoke up, along with others, to say that we can’t let this turn out to be a loss, we got to rally around each other, so credit to him,” Vogel added.
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