Lakers 93, Pistons 81: Running Diary

We took a look at the Lakers – Pistons contest in Detroit while it was happening, entering a thought or three each quarter as the Lakers looked for their fourth straight road win.

Lakers: Luke Walton (17th straight game)
Pistons: Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince

Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Gasol and Bynum
Pistons: Rodney Stucky, Chucky Atkins, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace

Phil Jackson Pregame
No need to make notes. CLICK HERE, and you can read Phil’s entire pregame presser.

First Quarter
11:45 Of interest in Jackson’s pregame presser was a quick line about Bryant’s finger, which he said hurt his star more in last night’s game than it did two games ago. In essence, any kind of contact can make Kobe’s finger feel like yours would if you stuck it in hot soup (too random?) … but his opening jumper, from 20 feet, swished through the net.

591830296:08 After a slow start offensively (we’ll chalk it up to the 4 a.m. hotel arrival), L.A. reeled off seven straight points when Artest hit a three-pointer as Ben Wallace refused to close out on the shot, and Gasol hit 1-of-2 free throws courtesy of Bryant’s trailing pass out of a fastbreak to make it 11-9 for the road team. In unrelated news, the Pistons PA announcer remains, by far, the loudest PA guy in the NBA (FYI).

3:49 Lamar Odom came off the bench and promptly committed two personal fouls in 49 seconds, but to be fair, he’d done some good work in the locker room before the game, singing some Bone Thugs & Harmony songs in hope of boosting his squad’s energy. Luke Walton then confirmed that Odom is the best locker room guy he’s ever been around. The quarter ended with Jordan Farmar’s step-back 3 over Villanueva, which put the Lakers up 31-19 after one thanks in part to seven Pistons turnovers, including three Artest steals.

Second Quarter
8:28 It was a better Bynum in Detroit, punctuated early on by a fierce put-back slam of Shannon Brown’s miss, then a big swat of Will Bynum at the other end. Bynum had made all four of his field goal attempts for 10 points, with two rebounds, an assist and two blocks as the Lakers led 40-28.

5:53 Other than Detroit’s plodding pace, here’s the reason an hour had already gone by: 30 combined free throws taken, including 21 by the Lakers. After Kwame Brown’s miss, Odom nailed a corner three and Artest a put-back layup to put L.A. up 47-33.

0:40.5 Both Bryant and Artest made unselfish extra passes to produce an easy layup for Gasol, who used glass to put L.A. up 18 points, 56-38, at the half. The Pistons committed an almost absurd 17 team fouls, putting the Lakers on the line 25 times, for the stat of the half.

Third Quarter
8:57 A nice defensive play from Bynum turned into a Bryant layup as the center blocked his third shot of the game on an Atkins three-point attempt, gathered the ball and then found Bryant streaking ahead of the pack. Meanwhile, the refs stopped calling some of the touch fouls that were earning free throws in the first half.

591830305:02 Artest’s driving dish was corralled by Fisher, who promptly floated a three-point swish into the air to keep the Pistons at bay, down 17. Artest was quietly having a very solid all-around game, including 14 points, six assists (team high), five steals and five boards. Meanwhile, as Artest sunk his fourth field goal, a waiting-to-check-in-at-the-scorer’s-table Odom entertained a light-hearted conversation with a fan about his new bride.

2:38 Adam Morrison, in his first action of the night, immediately stuck a wide-open 18-foot jumper, courtesy of defensive attention on Bryant and Gasol (Jackson’s been doing an admirable job of keeping his bench players engaged by varying the minutes). Morrison was the opposite of thrilled, however, after rimming out an end-of-quarter three-pointer that was also wide open, again courtesy of Bryant’s drawing of attention off penetration. Still, L.A. led by 21 after a 27-24 quarter.

Fourth Quarter
9:28 Bynum stuck a tough turnaround hook over Kwame Brown to get to 16 points on an uber-efficient 7-for-8 from the field, plus seven boards and three blocks to that point as Gasol, Bryant, Fisher and Artest watched from the bench with L.A. up 19.

7:51 D.J. Mbenga completed Jackson’s emptying of the bench by subbing in for Bynum, joining Farmar, Brown, Morrison and Odom on the floor … At least until the 5:59 mark, when Jackson re-inserted Bryant, Gasol, and Artest alongside Josh Powell and Brown with L.A. up 15. Taking no chances to seal off a four-game road winning streak.

1:05 The Pistons went on a big run to climb within eight points of L.A., but Bryant and Gasol combined for back-to-back buckets down the stretch to officially close the door, earning a 93-81 victory for the Lakers that doubled as the team’s fourth consecutive road win.

Next up is a Tuesday tilt with Oklahoma City in L.A., before the Christmas day contest against Cleveland. Until then, your numbers:

1 Field goal missed by Andrew Bynum in a 7-of-8 performance for 16 points, plus seven boards, three blocks and two assists.

6 Steals for Ron Artest to lead the Lakers, who collectively played the role of thief all evening, finishing with 15 team swipes. Kobe Bryant added five steals of his own to the effort.

19 Points scored by the Pistons in both the first and second quarters. Without Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, perhaps Detroit’s three best scorers, the going was tough.

22 In direct relation to No. 6 above, the Pistons committed 22 turnovers on the evning, to 15 by the Lakers.

25 First half free throw attempts by the Lakers in one of the slowest periods of the season. The Lakers made 19, including five each from Gasol and Artest, while the Pistons managed just 7-of-13.