Finally putting an end to a 9-game losing streak that dated as far back as January 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers finally beat the Detroit Pistons at the Palace, 92-77. Included in those loses were the 3 consecutive games that Detroit swept in the 2004 NBA Finals. The Lakers roared out of the starting blocks and the rout looked eminent as they led after the first quarter, 25-12. But Detroit’s bench came storming back and the Pistons retook the lead going into the half, 42-39 by outscoring the Lakers 30-14 in the second period. Whatever thoughts of defeating the best team in the West were quickly extinguished as the Lakers reestablished themselves and regained the momentum. They held the Pistons scoreless for the last 6:41 of the third quarter, outscoring them 20-0 to end the period comfortably ahead 70-55.
Kobe Bryant led the way with 30 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Derek Fisher contributed 15 points, while Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom both added 12 points apiece. Gasol also added 11 rebounds and Odom garnered 10 rebounds to go along with his 7 assists and 3 steals. The Bench Mob was outscored by Detroit, 41-15 led by Will Bynum with 25 points and 11 assists. But the only other Piston player to reach double figures was starter Antonio McDyess with 14 points. The Lakers defense effectively put the clamps on the Pistons, forcing Tayshaun Prince into 3-13 from the field for a total of only 7 points. As a team, the Pistons shot only 39.5% compared to the Lakers 45.5%. Now 3-0 on their 7-game road swing, the Lakers next face the 30-41 New Jersey Nets in a back-to-back situation tomorrow night.
dEDGE Post Scriptum
The Bad Boys are just bad. As in horrible. Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Allen Iverson are all out with injuries. Gone are Ben Wallace, who ran off to a bigger payday and Chauncey Billips, who was shipped to Denver in exchange for Iverson. That leaves Olympian Tayshaun Prince with no one to screen for, no one to pass to, and no where to go. They are no longer relevant or mildly interesting in conversations about Eastern powers, posting a dismal 34-37 record, 24.5 games behind division leader Cleveland. What remains of this once proud franchise is a collection of castoffs and malcontents. Remember the swagger in their step, the look of scorn cast towards opponents, and the arrogant, puffed out bravado they once displayed? Somewhere along the way the Pistons lost their hard edge, but more importantly, they lost their desire to fight.
The days of Mahorn, Laimbeer, Rodman, Thomas and Joe D. are long gone and now just distant memories. But so is the more recent cast of Pistons who won the NBA Finals in 2004 against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers with their Hall of Fame line-up. Gone are past warriors the likes of Chuck Daly and Larry Brown, Mark Aguirre, Adrian Dantley, James Edwards, Vinnie Johnson and even bench players like Scott Hastings and Corliss Williamson. They’ve been replaced by this season’s crop consisting of Kwame Brown, Aaron Afflalo, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell. For all of the hatred we hold for the Boston Celtics, we’ve always reluctantly respected their ability to win. With the Pistons, we simply hated them. We despised their blue collared work ethic, Isiah’s smirk, the Jordan rules, Rasheed’s technicals, the brawl at the Palace, but most of all, their bullying tactics and how they instilled fear into their opponents.
The Pistons were capable of taking you out of your game before play even started. They didn’t just play physical, they boasted of it and rubbed it in your face. They relished in the fact that we were all plastic and made in Hollywood, and they were steel and assembled in Motor City. Hard-nosed President Joe Dumars had instilled the same old school formula of diving for loose-balls, never helping your opponent off the floor, and always grinding it out for the full 48-minutes. But a funny thing happens when you trade away the heart and soul of your team in Billips for a “me-first” personality in Iverson. The small injuries associated with the game start becoming nagging, season-long problems, the all-out efforts are less frequent as you become more about me and less about team, and the losses begin to become acceptable as they pile up. Next thing you know, you’re looking in from outside of the playoff window and become entrenched in the other post-season, more commonly known as the NBA Lottery.