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LA Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons: Postgame Grades and Analysis for LA

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2013

LA Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons: Postgame Grades and Analysis for LA

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    The Los Angeles Lakers have not been a good road team throughout the 2012-13 season, but they showed up to the Palace at Auburn Hills Saturday and left with a 98-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

    L.A.’s offense has looked good as of late, and you can give credit to the team’s stellar ball movement. With Kobe Bryant willing to make the pass necessary to set up his teammates, the ball is finding its way to the open shooters.

    That theme held true in the opening period against Detroit, and Los Angeles posted a 32-point first quarter.

    Between the end of the first and the start of the second, the Pistons began to establish momentum. They put together a 9-0 run and took advantage of an L.A. team that didn’t want to get out and play up-tempo.

    But while the Lakers wanted to stay within their half-court plan of attack, they weren’t afraid to get out in transition when given the opportunity. Bryant and Steve Nash did a good job of pushing the pace, and more importantly, they made the right decisions when it came to slowing it back down.

    The second half began, and Los Angeles led by 11. That lead reached 18 halfway through the third quarter, but a 16-4 run by Detroit shaved that advantage down to six heading into the fourth.

    A common theme in this one was that when the Pistons got out in transition, the Lakers struggled to keep up. With the starters on the bench to begin the final quarter, Detroit came out and tied the game halfway through the quarter.

    This game remained close the rest of the way, and it came down to simple late-game execution. Neither team put together a solid performance in the closing minutes, as both missed golden opportunities to steal the win, but it was L.A. that defended the rim on the last shot and won its second game in a row in the middle of a long road trip. 

Point Guard: Steve Nash

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    Steve Nash was particularly active from the onset of Saturday's contest, as he established himself as more than just a jump shooter.

    From the opening period, Nash was controlling the offense. Kobe Bryant certainly took over at times, but Nash proved to be the primary facilitator in the first half, which hadn't happened the past few games.

    By halftime, Nash had nearly eclipsed his season average in assists with seven. He was showing that he could swing the ball in half-court sets, but he was also pushing the tempo when the time called for it.

    Nash only contributed 11 points, and he shockingly missed two key free throws down the stretch, but his 50 percent shooting was what the Lakers needed to keep Detroit's defense honest.

    He finished the game with 10 assists and five rebounds to go along with his 11 points.

    Grade: B+

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

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    With Steve Nash running the offense early, Bryant established himself as more of a shooter than we'd seen the past five games.

    This isn't to say he reverted back to his old ways, but it was clear that he was going to look for his own shot off the ball—a role that Nash had played as of late.

    Coming into this contest, the Los Angeles Lakers had won four of their last five, and Bryant was averaging an impressive 11 assists per game. He finished this one with five assists while attempting a team-high 20 shots.

    The 2-guard will receive criticism in this one for his final stat line. It's true that his shooting percentage wasn't great, but he was still making smart decisions most of the way.

    He was passing out of the block, and while his assists didn't climb to the level we've gotten used to, you have to remember that not every good pass ends up in the box score.

    Grade: B

Small Forward: Metta World Peace

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    Metta World Peace has been the worst shooter on the Los Angeles Lakers as of late, and that theme continued Saturday afternoon.

    The starting small forward took eight shots, making just three of them. The bigger concern is that he made only one of his four three-pointers, which is where the team needs him to excel.

    If World Peace is scoring from the outside, it opens up opportunities down low. Without that threat, defenses can hone in on rebounding instead of spreading out to the perimeter.

    As of late, he hasn't made up for his poor shooting in other areas. On Sunday, however, he hit the glass and collected nine rebounds. A stat like that isn't going to negate his awful shot, but it at least makes it easier to justify his 36 minutes.

    Grade: C+

Power Forward: Earl Clark

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    Earl Clark had another solid showing Saturday, and the thing that Lakers fans like to see is that he is an extremely efficient player at the power forward position.

    From the get-go against Detroit, Clark was making his shots. He was scoring at the rim, from mid-range and out on the perimeter, and he made shots whether he was wide open or closely defended.

    Clark began the game making four out of his first five shots, and while he certainly slowed down a bit throughout, he finished 6-of-11 from the floor while knocking down four of his six free throws.

    Defensively, he was as active as anyone on the floor. He made his presence felt down low, blocking two shots and grabbing two steals, but the bigger story was that he did a good job of containing the Pistons backcourt late in the game.

    The big asterisk on Clark's performance is two key free throws missed toward the end of the game, but those will be quickly forgotten considering the final outcome. 

    Grade: A-

Center: Pau Gasol

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    Dwight Howard missed his second straight game with a sore right shoulder, so Pau Gasol started at the center position.

    Luckily for the Lakers, Gasol had another great performance. He finished the contest with a team-high plus-10 in the plus-minus category, and he led the Lakers with 23 points.

    When Gasol is making his shots and rebounding the ball, he is one of the best power forwards in the NBA. He completed 10 of his 18 attempts against Detroit, and he brought down 10 rebounds to go along with three assists and two steals.

    If Gasol had been playing like he is now early in the season, he'd still be a full-time starter. Whether or not he makes it back into the lineup by the end of the year is unknown, but he's only going to help his chances if he keeps playing like this.

    Grade: A

6th Man: Antawn Jamison

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    With Dwight Howard sidelined and Pau Gasol in the starting lineup, Antawn Jamison played the role of the only big man off the bench.

    He finished the game with 10 points in 26 minutes, but his shot wasn't falling much from start to finish.

    Jamison missed two of his three attempts from long range, and he finished just 3-of-8 from the field. A fourth-quarter three-pointer was good to see, but you can't completely ignore the open looks that he missed throughout the contest.

    His aggressiveness was decent in this one, as he earned himself four rebounds and shot 3-of-4 from the foul line, but with Kobe Bryant looking his way on more than one occasion, you'd like to see the forward produce a bit more on the offensive end.

    Grade: C+

Bench

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    With three players earning minutes off the bench, the team got 21 points out of its second unit. Antawn Jamison, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks combined for 7-of-16 shooting, and while that percentage isn't great, it was good enough to keep them on the floor in the fourth quarter.

    If the bench had anything going for it, it's that the energy was solid from start to finish. The problem is that energy doesn't put points on the board—at least not when you're playing sloppy basketball.

    When the reserves were under control, they began converting on open looks. Blake knocked down two of his three deep-range attempts, and Meeks made one of his two as well.

    However, that wasn't the case the whole way, as they had a number of failed fast-break opportunities because they couldn't get the ball where it needed to be.

    The bench's performance wasn't the worst we've seen this season, but it's tough to say that the good outweighed the bad in this one.

    Grade: C

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