On Super Bowl Sunday, the Lakers were in Detroit continuing their tough road trip. Coming off of a huge win against Minnesota on Friday, the Lakers had a must-win game facing the lowly Pistons. Notorious for their problems on the road this season, two wins away from Staples in a row would be huge for this team. Many experts also predict that an unsuccessful Grammy trip will mean no playoffs for these Lakers.
The Lakers came out with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, and Pau Gasol. Dwight Howard had been a game time decision with a sore shoulder but did not play. Both teams came out firing as Pau Gasol had four early points. In a fast-paced offensive game, the Pistons took an early 13-9 lead before the Lakers responded with a 9-0 run of their own. Laker fans were once again encouraged by the impressive ball movement of this new pass-focused team.
As Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake played well off the bench, the Lakers were once again playing well as a team and looking to each other for contributions. Mike D’Antoni’s famous phrase “the ball finds energy” remained true in the case of athletic Earl Clark, who had nine early first quarter points. The Pistons succeeded in keeping the game close, however with poor Laker defense.
The Lakers controlled the game early, holding on to a consistent six point lead but they did struggle defensively. The two key highlights of the first quarter were Earl Clark and Pau Gasol.
By the end of the first, the Lakers were holding on to a 32-27 lead.
The second quarter got off to a horrific start. Detroit reeled off six straight points and took a one point lead of their own. The Lakers were one again faltering on the road. The team, however, responded well to a Mike D’Antoni timeout. Jodie Meeks scored five straight points of his own and Pau Gasol continued to play well inside. The Lakers scored seven straight points to regain a six point lead.
Both teams traded baskets for a few minutes but the Lakers were in control of the tempo and pace of the game. By the time Steve Nash returned and recorded his fifth assist of the game with 5:21 to go, the Lakers had rebuilt the lead to eight. The only true offensive threat to the Lakers had been Will Bynum, who was the only Piston in double figures with two minutes to go. This second quarter saw the Lakers put on a successful run to take the lead that was led by strong team defense translating into offense. The game did get very chippy at the end, as World Peace picked up a flagrant foul. The Lakers ended the half with an incredible alley-oop with 0.4 seconds to go.
The Lakers had a 62-51 lead at halftime, and fans could only hope they don’t lose it late in the game.
The Lakers have had problems holding leads on the road this season. They looked to get off to a strong start and solidly maintain or stretch the lead. The optimal situation would be a fourth quarter rest for the starters before a tough game in Brooklyn two days from now.
A Kyle Singler three pointer cut the lead to eight as the Lakers missed their first few shots of the quarter. A poor offensive start saw its effects mitigated by the impatience and immaturity of the Pistons. The Lakers pushed the lead to 14 with a thunderous fastbreak dunk from Kobe off of a feed from World Peace. The building erupted after that play, showing the numerous Kobe fans in the building.
Having reached their largest lead of the game, the Lakers looked to continue the good defense and make this game a blowout. An excellent pass from Kobe led to a Gasol layup as the Lakers finally showed great spacing. A finger roll from Nash pushed the lead to 18 and blew the game open. This deflated Piston team could not answer the 10-0 Laker run. After several minutes of offensive struggles for both teams, the Pistons chipped the lead down to 12 before a Laker timeout. The Lakers finally got a basket off a Kobe layup before Greg Monroe answered. Greg Monroe then cut the lead to ten as the Lakers were ice cold. The Lakers soon had the lead down to eight as the offense was all Kobe with no ball movement.
With just one minute to go the Lakers had given up yet another dunk and the lead was down to six. Any signs of a passing offense had disappeared. By the end of the third quarter, the Lakers clung to a six point lead.
The Lakers had turned a good third quarter into an abominable one. Any traces of energy and ball movement had disappeared as Kobe kept the ball on one side of the court.
The quarter started out with a turnover as the Lakers appeared ready to give another game away. The Lakers got a much-needed score with an incredible shot from World Peace. The Lakers did a good job early defensively but still struggled on the offensive end. A score from Will Bynum had the lead right back down to six. Steve Blake responded with a huge triple for the Lakers. Another triple from Jamison then pushed the Laker lead to double figures at ten.
The penetration of Piston guards to find Andre Drummond around the rim was the key defensive worry of the Lakers. Steve Nash returned with eight minutes to go while Kobe remained on the bench. A goaltending call on Earl Clark cut the Laker lead back to six yet again. A three from Charlie Villanueva cut the Laker lead down to three as the Lakers continued their road struggles. Yet another turnover cut the Laker lead to one as the Pistons were energized. A big bucket from Steve Nash pushed the lead to three while Kobe returned to the game. Will Bynum then scored while drawing the foul but he missed the free throw. A beautiful drive from Kobe caused a Piston timeout with just under five minutes to go.
A three from Charlie Villanueva tied the game at 91 before Kobe threw it away. Pau Gasol then drained a free throw line jumper before a great steal by Earl Clark. The Lakers pushed the lead to four with a long two from Nash before a Detroit miss. A Piston dunk cut the lead back to two in this thriller before Detroit then tied the game. A Kobe airball was followed by a Detroit miss before a spectacular three point play from Bryant. With just 69 seconds to go, the Lakers clung to a three point lead. Will Bynum scored to cut the lead to one and a Gasol miss gave the Pistons a chance to win the game. Kyle Singler missed and Earl Clark was fouled on the rebound. Clark missed them both and the Pistons had a chance to win the game with fifteen seconds. Will Bynum missed a layup and Steve Nash got the rebound with two seconds to go. It appeared the Lakers had escaped a tough game against a bad team. Steve Nash missed both free throws and Detroit took a timeout with one second to go. Detroit missed the last shot and the Lakers won.