Lakers 98, Pistons 97: Feb. 3 Running Diary

Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday afternoon contest at Detroit with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Gasol
Pistons: B. Knight, R. Stuckey, K. Singler, J. Maxiell, G. Monroe

FIRST QUARTER
12:00 The Lakers were without the services of Dwight Howard for the second straight game, the big man explaining that his right shoulder was not ready for game action, meaning Pau Gasol would start in the middle for the second straight game (he had 22 and 12 at Minnesota). The Pistons were without Jose Calderon, whom they’d just acquired in a three-way trade with Memphis and Toronto, as he was having trouble with a work visa (as a Spanish citizen who’d been working in Canada).

7:40 A layup from Nash through traffic halted a 7-0 run from the Pistons to get the Lakers within two, as Antawn Jamison entered the game when Metta World Peace committed his second early foul. Jamison has been strong of late off the bench, scoring in double figures in four straight games. L.A. kept it going, scoring seven more straight behind Kobe’s first field goal (which allowed him to pass Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh on the all-time FG made list), an Earl Clark three and Gasol’s third bucket to make it 18-13.

0:00 Gasol had a strong all-around first period (6 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists), though he missed consecutive open J’s in the final minute off set ups from Kobe. Nonetheless, L.A. led 32-27 after 12 minutes, with Clark reaching nine points to lead all scorers, Bryant adding four with two assists and Nash leading the way passing with four dimes. L.A. made 65 percent of its shots, getting seven bench points between Jamison and Steve Blake.

SECOND QUARTER
9:01 The concern for the Lakers without Howard was trying to get away with playing World Peace and Clark at the 4/5 on the second unit, which would usually have either Howard or Gasol. And Detroit punished ‘em early with their two 6-11 bigs Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, scoring six straight points at the rim in the first minute of the second. However, L.A. responded with a jumper from Clark, and a three and layup from Jodie Meeks to hold a 39-35 lead; Gasol returned after only two minutes and chance of rest.

6:13 The bench bounced back, aided by the return of Gasol (12 points), to take a 47-39 lead after two free throws from Jamison, up to six points off the pine. The Lakers had good energy in this one, in stark contrast to the last 10 a.m. game they had this season (at Toronto).

0:00.4 The Lakers know a little something about having 0.4 seconds left on the clock, and while the following play didn’t win a playoff game like Derek Fisher in San Antonio, it was kind of awesome: Kobe lobbed a perfect alley-oop from the sideline in front of L.A.’s bench over 30 feet that Clark rose to grab and hammer home, giving the visitors a 62-51 lead at the break. L.A. had 16 assists on 24 field goals (57 percent shooting) and continued a recent trend of terrific ball movement.

THIRD QUARTER
9:06 Bang. Kobe got a bit nasty in transition, throwing down a hammer dunk on Brandon Knight that gave L.A. its biggest lead at 68-54. Keeping the good vibe going for L.A. was Gasol, then Nash, with consecutive buckets in the paint to push the margin up to 72-54.

2:30 Detroit started to score behind Monroe (18 points), using a 10-2 run to cut L.A.’s 18-point lead to 10, even as Gasol reached 21 points on 9 of 13 field goals. They needed Gasol’s tip in with 56 seconds left to halt a 16-4 Pistons run that had quickly cut the lead down to just six. That was the margin after three, at 78-72, L.A. trying to hold on as they did against Minnesota in the previous road win.

FOURTH QUARTER
5:00 Bryant’s bucket at the rim was much needed, as it kept the Lakers up three after the Pistons had again roared back from a double digit deficit (87-77) to get within one when Will Bynum (a little thorn in LAL’s side all night with 16 points and eight assists off the bench). Detroit had the ball out of a time out, down 91-88, trying to complete a big comeback.

1:09 A terrific driving layup from Kobe, through lots of traffic, went down plus the foul to break a 95-all tie, his free throw giving the Lakers 98. He’d missed a contested jumper on the previous possession, and kept the snarl on his face after hitting the foul shot. Bryant had 18 points and five assists, Nash 11 points with 10 assists, and Gasol 23 points with 10 boards, three dimes and two steals.

0:00 Would you believe that Steve Nash missed not one, but two free throws* in the final seconds, giving the Pistons a chance to win, down one, with one second left, but Drummond missed an attempted dunk with Gasol contesting. Earl Clark had also missed two free throws with 16.8 seconds left, but the Lakers got the two final stops they needed to escape with a victory. It’s the fifth win in six games for L.A., who have four more games left on the Grammy road trip. Next up is Brooklyn, on Tuesday, in the brand new Barclay’s Center. We’ll see you there.
*He was literally the NBA’s greatest foul shooter ever, by percentage, at that point, until falling percentage points below Mark Price with the two misses.