With wins being at a premium in the 2014-2015 season for the Los Angeles Lakers, Silver Screen & Roll will take a look after every purple and gold victory this year, determining just how the bottom-feeding Lake Show managed to sneak in a win.
We can safely say with little to no hyperbole that the Pistons are the worst non-Sixers team in the league. Even with Stan Van Gundy at the helm, so many pieces on that team are incredibly toxic, from Brandon Jennings' misguided chucking to Josh Smith's antics, and they fit together quite poorly. Arguably their best player in Greg Monroe needs a specific type of lineup around him to maximize his skillset, and he has limited synergy with the Pistons supposed up-and-coming star in Andre Drummond. Indeed, SVG's arrival was supposed to herald Drummond's coming-out party and needless to say, that hasn't been forthcoming.
It isn't that surprising that the lineup that nearly got the Pistons back into the game was D.J. Augustin, Luigi Datome, Caron Butler, Jonas Jerebko, and Monroe, putting five players together who are actually interested in passing to one another and providing half-decent spacing for Monroe to operate. If that seems like an underwhelming lineup, that's all that is ultimately necessary to gain purchase against a super porous Lakers defense against whom the Pistons actually got good looks all night, except they couldn't finish anywhere, whether at the rim or the perimeter.
That's really the rub here: the Lakers didn't need to play particularly well since they just needed to not get in their own way as the Pistons imploded. Indeed, that the Lakers nearly blew this against an otherwise meh lineup that was able to muster a somewhat functional offense is testament to both how dysfunctional the Pistons' regular personnel are and how meager the Lakers' defense is. This was a disheartening loss for tanking purposes, but again, this is a team second only to the Sixers in general awfulness, so there's still a lot of room for optimism.
Kobe Bryant didn't force the issue on a night where he wasn't feeling 100 percent, and the Pistons' are incapable of flipping that swtich off. Josh Smith put up 17 field goals and made just seven of them, Meanwhile, the Lakers were lighting up the scoreboard from deep, led by Nick Young and Wesley Johnson combining to go six-of-nine from three-point range.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. The Pistons are clearly one of the worst teams in the NBA, and the Lakers decided to flirt with letting them back in the game despite leading by as many as 21 points. The purple and gold lucked out the Pistons are -very- bad, and Jordan Hill did just enough down the stretch to put the tank back in the garage for the night.
Key here? Let's see how many times Kobe has more assists (13) than shot attempts (11), and how that translates for the Lakers going forward. He's been a wiling passer recently, and his teammates have been thanking him for it by making their shots -- something that doesn't happen often enough.
The Great Mambino
Make no mistake: this was a definite "Lakers victory". LA simply outplayed a really, really horrid Pistons team, overmatching them in almost every facet of the game despite a near comeback late. Detroit didn't look engaged in the game at all and was discombobulated on both ends of the floor. Offensively, they were absolutely ragged, with almost zero scoring identity. Is Brandon Jennings their go-to guy? Is it Josh Smith? Should Andre Drummond be getting post plays called for him at this point in his career? Why is Caron Butler playing 29 minutes? It was an entirely confusing affair and even moreso when thinking that Stan Van Gundy is the team's coach. The Pistons have a ton of talent, but it seems to be a pile of mismatched parts that the Lakers happily feasted upon. Let's put it this way: Detroit is such a mess that even the Lakers defense looked competent against them. Whoa.
For their part, the Lakers looked reasonably competent against the bottom of the Eastern Conference rubbish bin. Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer were unstoppable down low, combining for 36 points and 20 rebounds amongst a much bigger, much more athletic Pistons front line. Nick Young was swagging from long range and Wes Johnson continued his miraculous string of strong play. In fact, Kobe's 12 point third quarter for his only points of the night seemed to be more than enough to sufficiently put away Detroit for good.
As Ben said, this may be the worst team in the league, non-Philadelphia division. Don't get used to this, Lakers fans.
They scored more points!