Since the acquisition of Pau Gasol on February 1, 2008, the Lakers had yet to lose three consecutive games.
They’d lost two-straight on eight different occasions, but never thrice.
That’s a fact talked about throughout the week by reporters around L.A.’s practice facility …but L.A. had actually already won the next game after dropping two without Gasol twice, first against Dallas and then Washington in March of 2008 when the Spaniard was out with a sprained ankle.
Thanks to the 100th 40-point performance of Kobe Bryant’s outstanding career on Tuesday at STAPLES Center against Detroit, you can make that three times.
Gasol still in dress clothes due to a hamstring strain (yet looking to return in L.A.’s next game, on Thursday), the Lakers utilized pre-groin-tweak-looking Kobe and some swarming team defense to burst to a 25-point lead after three quarters. Detroit managed to cut to just seven late in the fourth before ultimately falling by 13 when Bryant swished a 28-foot three to get to his 40 (he’s good) on the final shot of the game. Guess the groin was OK?
“I wanted to come out and have a good game and have people stop asking about it,” he said.
Forty points surely did the trick, and led by No. 24, the purple and gold can still make the claim that you may get ‘em once, and maybe even twice, but definitely not three straight times.
“(Losing) two in a row means something,” Phil Jackson had said after Monday’s practice. “One game is really a bump in the road for this team and they feel it. Two is an embarrassment. Three we don’t even want to think about.”
They won’t have to think about it, at least until the next two-game losing streak, which happened four times in 2008-09.
“Some of that is just talent and some of it is resiliency of the team that comes back,” said Jackson. “They were embarrassed with the losses and they want to feel good about themselves so they worked hard to change that.”
The tide of this one turned with L.A.’s first substitution late in the first quarter, when Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown checked in to match Detroit’s small lineup and produced a collective 11 points, two assists and two steals during a stretch that saw a 17-10 Pistons lead morph into a 48-36 Lakers edge with three minutes left in the second quarter (57-42 at the half).
“You’ve got to credit them,” said Pistons head coach John Kuester. “They played awfully hard, they were the aggressors.”
This was a welcome sight for the Lakers, whose bench struggled just as Bryant did in the team’s previous two games. Yet like the bench, Bryant turned things around in immediately after missing his first four shots by sinking eight of his next 10 for a game-high 21 points at the break, then converted 6-of-8 in the third to push L.A.’s lead to 88-63.
“We played a couple of good periods in this game tonight and we sustained the effort at the end,” said Jackson. “I was pleased with the ball movement and the way we played in the first course of the game.”
The Pistons refused to quit, however, chipping away at L.A.’s lead first with a 9-0 run to start the quarter before getting it to seven with 1:55 remaining by outworking the Lakers second unit, drawing Jackson’s disdain. But it was too little, too late on this night.
L.A. has a chance to start a winning streak when the Chicago Bulls come to town, and perhaps more importantly, they expect to get their 7-foot power forward back in the process.
Until then, your numbers:
1,049 Career coaching wins for Phil Jackson, pushing him past Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown for 5th on the NBA’s all-time coaching list.
65 Points scored by the Lakers in the second and third quarters, to 41 from Detroit. Kobe Bryant had 27 in that mid-game stretch.
44 Career double-doubles for Andrew Bynum heading into this season. Thus far in 2009-10, he already has eight double-doubles in nine games after posting 17 and 12 against Detroit.
24 Points off the bench for Pistons backup guard Will Bynum, who helped Detroit close the gap to seven points late in the fourth as Jackson put Bryant back into the game.
12 Edge on the glass for the Lakers, including a 25-15 margin in the first half.
8 Of lots of things for Lamar Odom, including eight rebounds, assists and points in 29 minutes.