It all seemed to be coming together for the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the dysfunctional front office, despite the ongoing trade drama, the Lakers were playing their best basketball of the season. Sunday's victory over the Miami Heat marked their eighth win in 10 games. But more to the point, it was a victory over the Heat -- one of the toughest teams in the league. The Lakers were on a roll.
And then they went on the road.
Tuesday night in Detroit, they followed up their triumph over the 28-win Heat with an 88-85 overtime loss to the 12-win Detroit Pistons. Most disconcerting of all for coach Mike Brown and Lakers fans, the loss once again exposed all of the flaws that have been plaguing this team.
- They have no depth. The L.A. Big Three of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol scored 72 points Tuesday -- the rest of the team combined scored just 13. Metta World Peace followed up his stellar game against the Heat by going 2 for 9.
- They can't make threes. They were just 3 for 22 from beyond the arc. World Peace was 0 for 5, Kobe 2 for 9.
- They can't defend against guard penetration. Rodney Stuckey (34 points) and Ben Gordon (15) (not even the quickest of guards) torched them.
- Bryant has trouble deferring, even when it's in the team's interest. Bynum scored 30 points on 18 shots (he made 13). Bryant scored 22 points on 26 shots (he made 8). For the game, Bryant missed as many shots as Bynum took. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Bynum was 6 for 7, Bryant 2 for 7.
One of those two Bryant makes down the stretch was a big one. Stuckey hit a three pointer with 9 seconds remaining in regulation to give the Pistons a two point lead. With the clock winding down, Bryant swished a 20 footer with Tayshaun Prince in his face to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Stuckey scored six points to help the Pistons secure the win. Bryant and World Peace each missed wild three pointers that would have tied the game in the final seconds.
The Pistons have been playing better of late. After opening the season 4-20, they had won eight of their last 14. They're also much better at home than they are on the road -- including Tuesday's win, 10 of their 13 victories have come at the Palace.
The game was a back and forth affair. The Lakers dominated the first and third quarters -- the Pistons easily won the second and fourth. By that logic, one might have expected the Lakers to win the overtime and thus the game, but Stuckey was not going to let that happen. He hit every clutch shot all game long, and continued to do so in the extra period.
With the win, the Pistons improve to 13-26. The Lakers drop to 23-15 and fall a few percentage points behind the Clippers in their battle for the top of the Pacific Division. The Lakers road record stands at 6-13 -- the worst of any team in the league with an overall record above .500.