Lakers 103, Pistons 90: Kobezilla Stomps Detroit

If you happened to miss tonight's game, first: congratulations on finding something better to do. Some of us weren't so lucky. Second: please don't misread a modest 13-point margin of victory as a sign that the outcome was ever in question. In front of a sparse and depressed-looking Palace crowd, the Lakers jammed out to an 11-2 lead and built the cushion up to 14 at halftime and 26 in the third period before letting the scrubs run out the clock. The Lakers move their record to 10-2 on the season and 2-0 on the second nights of back-to-backs.

The Pistons are a franchise in rough shape at the moment. They've achieved that rare combination of being old and not very talented, and against the Lakers they looked overmatched from the beginning. Kobe Bryant was a surgeon, slicing up the Pistons with a mix of dribble drives and turnarounds. He scored 33 points on 24 shots (including free-throw possessions), and it was especially nice to see him locate his missing three-point stroke. Over the previous three games he'd made only four of 18 from distance. Tonight he knocked down three of his six longball attempts.

All the support he needed came from Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who simply played over the heads of the Detroit bigs. Those two combined for 40 points on 30 shots and 26 rebounds. Ben Wallace was the only Piston who could make Pau and Lamar even a little uncomfortable. Jason Maxiell was a mess, the likes of Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva were physically overwhelmed. Best of all, Pau actually got a little rest. After logging more than 40 minutes in three straight games, he played only 33 in this one. Here's a little of the wizardry he and Lamar flashed tonight.

For the game the Laker offense scored "only" 1.13 points per possession, a strong mark but below their stratospheric season average. That's just because the bench unit was inept in the fourth period. Through three quarters the Lakers had scored 1.27 PPP, confirmation that the offense remains at a pleasant cruising altitude.

The Pistons don't have the weaponry to trade blows with the defending champs. They lack dynamic playmakers and true post threats. As C.A. noted in his preview this afternoon, they have a low turnover rate, but if tonight's contest is any indication, it might be simply because their offense consists of tossing the ball around the perimeter and hoisting 18-footers. They couldn't scratch out even a point per possession in this one. The Laker defense was fine - their good work on the defensive glass was a nice improvement on recent efforts - but really, the Piston offense is toothless beast. Rodney Stuckey "led" the team with 18 points on 18 shots.

The refs did the Pistons no favors. Early in the first quarter, Richard Hamilton was victimized by one of the least defensible ejections you'll ever see. He got whistled for fouling Kobe and, according to various tweets from those who were present, said "Bad call, man!" to Derrick Stafford. When Stafford teed up for daring to open his mouth, Rip reacted with, "That's bullshit!" At that point, Stafford tossed him. You can kind of see what happened at the 0:26 mark of this highlight reel.

You know what, Mr. Stafford? Rip's right. That is bullshit. Rip's a totally mild-mannered professional, and no would even have noticed his reaction to the foul call if the refs would've merely let it slide. In conclusion, "respecting the game" techs blow.

A few more notes on what will likely be one of the more forgettable nights of the Lakers' regular season:

  • The Lakers have become an excellent free-throw shooting team. Tonight they made 22 of 24 from the stripe to bring their season average up to 81%. Though far behind Oklahoma City's 88% mark, that's still good for second in the league. In no game this year have the Lakers made less than 75% of their freebies.
  • Derek Fisher got an offensive rebound! It took him 324 minutes played, but early in the third quarter tonight he picked up his first official offensive board of the year. It happened when Ben Gordon blocked a Fisher jumpshot and the ball landed right back in Fish's hands. And for the record, I wasn't tracking this streak as a means of clowning Fish. I realize it's not his job to pound the offensive glass, and that in fact pounding the offensive glass is kind of the opposite of his job, which is usually to occupy the "defensive balance" spot atop the Triangle. I just found it interestingly improbable that a guy could spend so much time on the court without a missed shot randomly bouncing his way.
  • Derrick Caracter played 15 minutes tonight and continues to look very legit. He took five shots, scored five points and grabbed five boards. His point total would have been higher if not for....
  • Sasha Vujacic, who was an unholy disaster in garbage time. In just six minutes of action he managed to miss five of six shots, commit a turnover and sabotage the offense with his horrible decisions. When the garbage-time unit is on the floor, the offense should run through Caracter since he's the best of the deep reserves at creating his own shot. Sasha is clearly not yet on board with this plan.

The champs now move on to face the Timberwolves on Friday. I just hope they don't go totally off the chain in Minneapolis tomorrow night celebrating this monumental win.











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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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