The Los Angeles Lakers extended their winning streak to five games by topping the visiting Detroit Pistons 106-99 at the Staples Center on Sunday night.
It was a tighter contest than most would have expected by looking at each team on paper.
The 13-24 Pistons were again without injured All-Star Blake Griffin, who last played on Dec. 28, as well as guard Reggie Jackson (back), guard Luke Kennard (knee), forward Markieff Morris (foot) and guard Khyri Thomas (foot). Detroit has not posted back-to-back wins since early December.
Despite that, Detroit held a 79-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Lakers looked to finally be pulling away, leading 90-79 at the 7:42 mark in the fourth, but the Pistons fought back yet again. Veteran point guard Derrick Rose sunk a three-pointer with just under two minutes to go to cut L.A.'s lead to 98-97.
Rose delivered a huge boost from the bench with his 19th straight double-digit scoring performance dating back to late November. Andre Drummond provided the most production all-around with a sixth straight double-double despite an injury scare of his own:
The 26-year-old center did make headlines Saturday night for telling reporters he's "not a quitter," though that was in the context of ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski's report that he is on the trade block:
"I was never brought up to be a quitter," Drummond continued. "If I start somewhere, I try to finish there, try to complete the mission, which is to win a championship here. It will never be me that wants to go anywhere ... I love being here. I would love to play here the rest of my career."
Normally, Drummond's four blocks would be impressive. However, the Lakers combined for 20 blocks on the night. Anthony Davis' eight blocks and LeBron James' triple-double were nearly wasted.
The Lakers improved to 29-7 and maintained a comfortable lead atop the Western Conference, even though starting veteran guard Avery Bradley was lost after 12 minutes of action with a sprained right ankle.
LAL F Anthony Davis: 24 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 8 blocks
LAL F LeBron James: 21 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists
LAL G Alex Caruso: 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals
LAL C Dwight Howard: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks
DET G Derrick Rose: 28 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
DET C Andre Drummond: 12 points, 18 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 blocks
DET F Sekou Doumbouya: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
Anthony Davis Leads Lakers' Overwhelming Block Party
Davis almost surpassed Shaquille O'Neal in Lakers history by notching a season-high eight blocks:
The 26-year-old All-Star's impact in this game can't be limited to his blocks, though. That was most excitingly on display when Bradley blocked Rose's layup on one end to set up an emphatic Davis dunk on the other in the first quarter:
More importantly, Davis directly negated Rose late in the fourth to curb a Pistons' comeback:
It was only appropriate that Davis was at the line to hit two free throws with 4.1 seconds until the final whistle to seal the win.
Centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard were also swat-happy with six and five blocks, respectively. All told, according to team reporter Mike Trudell, L.A.'s 20 blocks were one short of the all-time franchise record for a single game:
Mike Trudell @LakersReporter
Frank Vogel said the theme of the film session yesterday was how the Lakers gave up 68 points in the paint against New Orleans, and he was quite pleased with how they responded with the rim protection against the Pistons, with 20 blocks, 1 short of the all-time franchise high.
The Lakers outscored the Pistons 66-32 in the paint.
That effort could have been for naught, too, which is the more pressing issue moving forward. The Pistons would have been a lesser opponent even without being severely undermanned. If the Lakers lost this—granted, in January—questions would be swarming in Monday's news cycle.
The win doesn't necessarily absolve those concerns for a season that is effectively championship or bust. L.A. could not keep Detroit at bay without James on the court down the stretch, for one:
Bigger picture, the Lakers are undefeated against sub-.500 opponents this season.
In other words, they're fine.
Derrick Rose Puts His Best Forward in Pistons' Loss
The Pistons' bench outscored Lakers reserves 65-40.
That was led by Rose's game-high 28 points. The 2008 No. 1 overall pick has resurrected his prime with the Pistons as a surprisingly dominant super sub:
Watching Rose influence the game caused some to wonder whether contending teams will try to pluck him out of Detroit:
More specifically, it posed the intriguing possibility of Rose somehow landing on this Lakers' roster:
Drummond has been the hot name ahead of the league trade deadline on Feb. 6, but perhaps the Pistons will consider moving a 31-year-old Rose.
Both teams will play next Tuesday. The Lakers will host the New York Knicks, and the Pistons will travel to Cleveland for the first of a back-to-back against the Cavaliers.