The Los Angeles Lakers came into this contest winners of three straight games, including a victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday. The Lakers had not lost a single game since the All-Star break and were hoping to take care of business against the sub-par Detroit Pistons.
The Lakers were pounding the ball inside to their big men early on and were trying to establish an inside presence. The Pistons did not have enough size or length to contain Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and as a result, the Lakers held a 9-2 lead at the 8:23 mark. Gasol and Bynum contributed with six of the Lakers’ first eight points.
The Lakers were moving the ball extremely well in the early going. In fact, the team recorded six assists on the first six field goals made.
After allowing Gasol and Bynum to dominate the ball in the opening half of the quarter, Kobe Bryant became more assertive on the offensive end, and, after his three-point make, brought the Lakers’ lead to 15-6 with 5:17 remaining.
The Pistons made a push after the time-out and were finding their success by attacking the basket. Detroit also made an effort to speed the pace of the game and push the ball into the open-court. The Pistons are a fairly young team, so they understood that if the game turned into a track-meet, they would have the upper hand. After a Tayshaun Prince layup, the Pistons cut the deficit down to five, 16-11, with 4:06 left in the quarter.
The Lakers, however, made a strong push in the latter part of the first period. Bynum continued to dominate the paint and was nearly unstoppable when he got the ball near the hoop. After 12 minutes of play, the Lakers held a 24-17 lead with Gasol, Bryant and Bynum leading the way with 22 combined points.
Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol began the second quarter on the bench for rest, but the Lakers did not lose a step with Bynum on the court. The offense was running through Bynum and he was delivering with shots in the paint and valuable rebounds on perimeter shots.
Andrew Goudelock also helped out Bynum on the offensive end and was able to dissect the Pistons’ defense when needed. After his three-point make, Goudelock brought the Lakers’ lead to eight, 29-21, with 10:00 remaining in the quarter.
The Lakers continued to strive with two stars on the bench and were in complete control of the momentum. The reserves once again had a solid outing and once Kobe and Gasol re-entered the game, the Lakers held a 37-27 lead with 6:46 left in the period.
Ironically, the Pistons made a run and cut the Lakers lead down to one, 39-38, after a 13-2 run when the stars were in the game. Even with Gasol and Kobe on the floor, the Pistons found a way to get back into the game. Rodney Stuckey was the catalyst of the surge and got his buckets by attacking the basket. He did not see any opposition when driving to the paint and was able to single-handedly bring the Pistons in striking distance.
The Pistons worked their way back from double-digits and eventually took a one point lead, 42-41, with 2:45 remaining in the first half.
Detroit finished the period strong and walked back to the locker-room with a 45-41 lead. Stuckey led the way for the Pistons with 12 points and Bynum poured in 13 to lead the Lakers.
The Lakers opened the third quarter well and the team found a way to retake the lead. The Lakers went back to what got them the lead and were once again in control of the momentum. Los Angeles began to pound the ball inside to Gasol and Bynum and that helped the team take a 49-46 lead at the 8:36 mark of the period.
The Lakers guards were having trouble shooting from the perimeter and Kobe Bryant was struggling mightily at four-for-14 from the field. Still, the Lakers had two seven footers on the floor who were cleaning the glass. The big men were dominating both ends of the court and as a result, the Lakers had a 53-46 advantage with 5:30 left in the quarter.
Still, the Pistons matched the Lakers’ every move and once again Rodney Stuckey sparked a Pistons run. Detroit was not willing to go away and kept on attacking the Lakers. Just when it seemed as though the lengthy front-court would overwhelm the Pistons, Detroit went back to attacking the basket and running up the floor. At the 2:00 mark of the period, the Lakers had just a 59-54 lead.
Once the third quarter came to an end, the Lakers had a 61-54 advantage, but the Pistons were still very well in the game. Bynum and Bryant lead the Lakers with 17 points each and Gasol put in 16 points himself.
The Pistons started the final period strong and Stuckey was leading the surge. He was getting himself inside the paint and for some reason, the Lakers’ big men had trouble preventing him from scoring. Pistons veteran Prince also got it going on in the early portion of the quarter and the two brought the Lakers’ lead down to three, 63-60 with 9:05 left in the game.
To make matters worse, the Lakers’ closer Kobe Bryant continued to struggle from the field and could not get anything to fall. Although Bryant had scored plenty of points in the game (17), he was not very efficient and was having trouble all night. The Lakers had to rely on their front-court to cover for Bryant’s play, but still, the Pistons had a 67-65 advantage with 6:19 remaining in the game.
The game was close throughout the period and in the final four minutes, both teams went back and forth. Each possession carried a little more importance and the energy level was clearly at a high.
However, at the end of the day, the veteran Lakers team found a way to avoid embarrassment. Despite the fact that the Pistons remained in the game, the Lakers made key plays in key moments. The young Pistons played extremely well, but they could not overcome the length Los Angeles had in the paint.
Detroit looked like it would walk away with the victory after a Rodney Stuckey three, but their goals came to an end after Kobe Bryant came up clutch. Despite his shooting woes, Kobe found a way to send the game into overtime with a shot at the buzzer to tie the game at 78.
The Pistons did not back down from the Lakers in overtime and were not showing signs of an inexperienced team. Rodney Stuckey continued his onslaught and put the team on his back. Stuckey was beginning to find his shot from the perimeter and led the Pistons back on top, 84-83, with 1:44 left in overtime.
The Pistons rode the momentum all the way to the final buzzer and survived in overtime. The Lakers had two opportunities to send the game into a second overtime, but fell to Detroit 88-85. Kobe Bryant had 22 points for the team, but Stuckey’s 34 was just too much to handle.
The Lakers will be in action again tomorrow when they travel to play the Washington Wizards at 4:00 p.m. PST.