Pistons Cruise by Lakers, 93-78Some teams may fear facing the league's top superstars but the Detroit Pistons are making a point of shutting them down. Detroit kept Kobe Bryant under wraps in the first game of TNT's Thursday night doubleheader and beat his L.A. Lakers 93-78. Bryant led the Lakers with 18 points and five assists but he shot just 5-13 from the field and had eight turnovers. Great players sometimes commit a large number of turnovers because they handle the ball more frequently than their teammates and because they must take risks to break down the opposing defense to create open shots; Bryant's turnovers versus the Pistons were unusual because several of them came on plays when he simply fumbled the ball or allowed someone to slap it out of his hands. A TNT graphic noted that Vince Carter (11 points, 4-11 shooting), Dwyane Wade (21 points, 5-23 shooting) and LeBron James (21 points, 9-22 shooting) have also recently had subpar games against the suddenly surging Pistons.
It's not like the Lakers weren't trying; they actually outrebounded the Pistons 45-44, so the effort was there but what was missing was crisp execution. Four Detroit players scored between 16 and 20 points. Tayshaun Prince had 20 points, six rebounds and four assists, Chris Webber contributed 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, Rasheed Wallace produced a nearly identical line of 18 points, 10 rebounds and two assists and Rip Hamilton had 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Chauncey Billups only scored six points but he had nine assists and four steals, several of them against Bryant.
TNT's Steve Kerr talked about how good teams impose their will on their opponents early in the game and sustain that effort for 48 minutes: for instance, the Suns make their opponents run, while the Spurs slow the game down. Right from the start, Detroit applied pressure defense to point guard Smush Parker and employed a shifting zone defense that disrupted the rhythm of the Lakers' offense. The Pistons jumped out to a 15-8 lead less than halfway through the first quarter and had already forced four turnovers by then. Billups' fast break layup after the Pistons stole an ill advised cross court pass by Parker pushed Detroit's advantage to 22-10 and the Pistons were up 28-17 by the end of the first period. Webber showed off his all around skills with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. Bryant attempted just one shot, making a three pointer with 27 seconds left.
The Lakers played the first three and a half minutes of the second quarter with Bryant on the bench, using basically the same lineup that produced a fourth quarter collapse on Friday in Indiana (Lamar Odom, Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Ronny Turiaf, Maurice Evans; in the Pacers game, Cook was on the court instead of Turiaf). Kerr noted that Luke Walton, who is out of the lineup because of a sprained ankle, usually plays with that group instead of Turiaf and that he stabilizes the unit because of his passing ability. "Without him (Walton)," Kerr explained, "you can see that this lineup is really lost out there." They got off to a shaky start, allowing Hamilton to convert a three point play for a 31-17 lead, but settled down after that and trimmed the margin to 33-24 before Bryant returned at the 8:34 mark. Bryant promptly made a three pointer and assisted on an Odom jumper as the Lakers got to within four, 33-29. Amazingly, they would get no closer the rest of the game.
Detroit led 48-36 at the half. Webber already had 11 points, six rebounds and three assists, Prince also had 11 points and Wallace had 10 points. TNT's Craig Sager reported that Lakers Coach Phil Jackson blasted his team for playing scared. Jackson's words were to no avail, as the Pistons began the third quarter with a gorgeous play that culminated in Webber's behind the back pass to Prince for a layup. As Bryant and the Lakers continued to bobble the ball all over the place, Kerr mentioned a favorite saying of Tex Winter (the creator of the Triangle Offense): "One bad pass begets another."
The action on the sidelines actually provided more entertainment than the game. Brian Cook is credited with a minute played in the boxscore but he accumulated no statistics because he was actually pulled back from the game before he had a chance to do anything. When Cook entered the game, he tossed his shooting shirt at the Lakers bench, nailing Assistant Coach Kurt Rambis. Jackson then removed Cook from the game. TNT later showed some footage of Cook ranting and raving on the sidelines but they didn't show him tossing the shooting shirt. Don't be surprised if you soon see a small blurb about Cook being fined and/or suspended for "conduct detrimental to the team."
Sager had an interesting misadventure. The veteran sideline reporter did an interview with Chris Webber's father, asking him how happy he was to see his son come back home to Detroit. The father chuckled a little when Sager introduced him to the TV audience and the reason for that became apparent later--when Sager announced, apologetically, that the man in question was actually one of Webber's old coaches. Sager then did an interview with Webber's real father--we think. No explanation was given for the case of mistaken identity and the two interview subjects did not even remotely resemble each other. Marv Albert noted that many people in Detroit are happy about Webber's return and Kerr kiddingly added that Sager's next interview will be with Webber's seven year old nephew, who inspired Webber to wear number 84.
posted by David Friedman @ 11:21 PM