Well, the Lakers had better hope the Detroit Pistons don’t turn their season around and make the NBA Finals. That might seem like a hyperbolic statement about a team with the worst record in the NBA, but after the Lakers barely squeaked out a 135-129 win against a Pistons team missing Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin on the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday — after already losing to them a week ago — the purple and gold have to be glad this is their final time seeing Detroit this year.
As they were the last time they lost — coincidentally, also against these same Pistons — the Lakers’ issues in this one were mostly self-inflicted. The gave away the ball 22 times — LeBron James had 7 by himself — and often appeared as though they’d challenged themselves to see how many turnovers they could commit and still win. Their defense was mostly sloppy as well, with perimeter players leaving Pistons shooters wide open to keep this game close for far longer than it should have been given both teams’ pedigree and roster situations.
But credit to Detroit: They just kept fighting, winning the battle for 50/50 balls to keep possessions alive and remain in a game they were far overmatched in from a talent perspective. For a good chunk of the night, it appeared the Lakers could be in for another irritating letdown if they weren’t careful. Those fears appeared to be realized as the Lakers scored 0 points in the final four minutes of regulation as Josh Jackson (28 points) of all people exploded down the stretch to send this game to overtime after James missed at the buzzer.
And given that Davis was out last time and that he started the night hitting his first six shots, it would be tempting to say that he was the difference in this one. But while he finished with 30 points and certainly aided in the victory, Davis was just as guilty as everyone else on the team of somehow looking like they were the ones out of gas despite having last night off while the Pistons played on Friday. It was actually Alex Caruso (10 points) who gave the Lakers a spark in the first overtime, with his quick flurry of buckets and defensive intensity giving the Lakers the spark they needed to stay in it after a slow start to the extra period.
After some huge plays from James and Davis down the stretch of the two overtimes — including some gigantic threes from LeBron to give the Lakers’ four and seven-point leads, respectively, and Davis recovering to force a somehow-key miss from our old friend Svi Mykhailiuk — the Lakers finally put the Pistons away about an hour later than they should have.
James finished the game with 33 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Even on a night you’d say was “meh” if you watched, he is still unbelievable.
And so despite their best efforts to lose, the Lakers will walk out of this one with an 18-6 record and four-game winning streak. They’ll have Sunday off to enjoy the Super Bowl before resuming play against Oklahoma City on Monday as their home stand continues. Maybe they’ll even take the Thunder seriously after almost blowing this one.
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