--by Brian Kamenetzky
Just toss out the fourth quarter, in which the Lakers were outscored 19-10, got a little sloppy with the ball, and instead of working the clock to protect substantial lead kept taking early shots, as if firing quickly on each trip would help make time pass faster, speeding the process of getting to the buzzer, the showers, the bus, the team plane, and finally back to LA after a week-long trip through some seriously wretched weather. Wipe it from the memory bank, like a bad blind date. It doesn't mean much.
Instead, focus on the first three quarters of LA's 93-81 victory Sunday night over the Detroit Pistons at The Palace. There you'll find their full level of domination over aDuane Burleson/AP Photo
Ron Artest spent Sunday evening blowing up whatever scraps of Detroit's offense actually exist.
shorthanded home team (no Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, or Tayshaun Prince). That's where all the important stuff happened, anyway.
As it was in Saturday night's win over the Nets in New Jersey, the Lakers got out to an early lead. Unlike Saturday night, where they frittered the cushion away by the half, tonight they continued to build into the break and through the third, thanks to a combination of solid defense and smart offense. Over the first 24 minutes, the Lakers forced 13 turnovers and held the Pistons to 39.5% shooting, explaining Detroit's anemic 38 point output, weak even for an offensively challenged squad. Meanwhile, they exploited an impish Detroit frontcourt, whether to spring Andrew Bynum for dunks- he was 5-5 from the floor- or piling up free throws (25 in the opening half alone). Ron Artest was particularly active, scoring ten points and showing why his impact on the defensive end is so strong. Four steals and endless harassment of Pistons on and off the ball, all in addition to the ten points and four dimes with which he pitched in offensively. It was among the best pair of quarters he's played with the Lakers, and his energy was infectious. Even as their collective minds clearly began to wander in the fourth, the Lakers were still hustling after loose balls and defending well (they shaved nine points off LA's lead in the period, but mostly because the Lakers scored only 10 points).
From there, it was a matter of tending the garden.
With the win, the Lakers come home having won four of five since they last played at Staples, and again reclaimed the league's best record (22-4).
With 13 points and 11 rebounds, Pau Gasol notched his seventh straight double-double.
Kobe scored 28 points on 11-23 from the floor, but more importantly seems to be adjusting to his bum right index finger when it comes to handling the ball. After turning the ball over 15 times in games against the Bulls and Bucks, Kobe turned things around later in the trip. Two against the Nets on Saturday, only two Sunday in 39 minutes vs. the Pistons.
To say Andrew Bynum is under a microscope would be an understatement. After his 11 minute, six foul debacle against the Nets, he had more good moments on Sunday (it would have been hard not to). He stayed active offensively, making himself available for passes and finishing with authority around the rim. On the other hand, he still found a little foul trouble, even biting on a Kwame Brown pump fake to pick up a personal. Seriously? A Kwame Brown pump fake? That shouldn't fool anyone. The rebounding was better- seven in 28 minutes- but what struck me were the sequences in which Bynum really turned on the juice. Early in the third, after the Lakers cleared a rebound on the defensive glass, Bynum hauled hard to the other end- I'm talking seven footer at full speed here- and beat Brown to the block, where he took the pass and forced Kwame to foul. That was great stuff. Other times, though, he still seemed to drift. I'll be interesting to see how the sort of scrutiny he's under affects him going forward. To say the least, he could use a dominating performance, and with the Thunder and Cavs coming up, the Lakers wouldn't object.
To my knowledge, none of the beat guys (including our esteemed Dave McMenamin) managed to get out of New York/New Jersey and into Detroit, thanks to the weather. Given how packed the airports are around there, I've heard some may not get out until Tuesday. There are times I'm glad I don't travel for every game.
More to come tomorrow.