March 27, 2018, 3:01 am
The Lakers ended their four-game road trip by falling to the Pistons 112-106.
Monday was a homecoming for Kyle Kuzma who grew up in Flint Michigan and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who spent the beginning of his career with the Pistons, before signing with the Lakers this offseason.
Detroit came out strong, building a 13-6 lead before the Lakers stormed back behind Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma, who each scored eight first quarter points to pace Los Angeles. The Lakers were able to build a 10-point lead at 42-32 while Detroit played listlessly on both ends of the court. At that juncture, Los Angeles had a 14-2 edge in assists and had only committed one turnover.
The Pistons picked it up eventually closing the first half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Ish Smith, closing to only a two-point deficit. One element that plagued the Lakers throughout the half was an inability to knock down 3-point shots, as they converted only 3-of-12 from deep for 25.0 percent.
Julius Randle was limited early on with foul trouble; contributing only four points and five rebounds while committing three fouls and three turnovers. His frontcourt partner Brook Lopez picked up the slack with a unique stat line, chipping-in seven points, seven assists, three blocks and one rebound. Lonzo Ball was also stellar with eight points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals on 4-of-4 shooting. He showed an improved offensive arsenal and willingness to attack the rim, highlighted by a floater in the lane and a fast break dunk off a steal.
The second half was not kind to the Lakers as they were outscored 59-51, largely due to a sub-par defensive effort and an inability to knock down their 3-pointers. Both elements may be due to the fact that the Lakers are simply fatigued playing without Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Isaiah Thomas due to injury. The Laker starters all logged at least 32 minutes (Lopez and Randle were both limited by foul trouble) and simply looked tired. Coach Luke Walton had no choice as his depleted bench was unable to contribute much to the contest, getting outscored 42-21.
The Lakers’ two rookies each played over 40 minutes and were absolutely fantastic in the loss. Ball, who had been struggling of late, accrued 15 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists and two steals while committing only two turnovers. He was extremely efficient hitting 7-of-8 from the floor while making his only attempt from 3-point range. Ball played with confidence and poise and along with Kuzma, kept the Lakers in the game.
Kuzma, who returned to his home state for the first time in his career, tallied 20 points, 11 rebounds and one assist while making 8-of-15 from the field. Coach Walton mentioned after the game that Kuzma has been playing on an injured ankle — it was hard to tell as he continued to impress for the Lakers.
Randle had a tough game while struggling with foul trouble, finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal on 7-of-13 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the charity stripe. He committed five fouls and five turnovers, half the Lakers’ total for the game.
Lopez continued to produce for the Lakers with 14 points, nine assists and five blocks but shot 6-of-16 overall, 0-of-4 from 3-point range and only 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
After his hot start, Caldwell-Pope shot the Lakers out of the game by making only 2-of-10 from the field and 1-of-5 from 3-point range. He ended the game with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and one block on 5-of-17 shooting.
The Pistons got a huge lift from Reggie Jackson who played 28 minutes, the most since returning from an ankle injury. He accumulated 20 points, five rebounds and three assists while making 9-of-22 shots.
Andre Drummond played a lackluster first half but finished the game with 15 points, 18 rebounds, two assists and one block. He earned a game-high plus-9 rating and helped seal the game by converting 5-of-6 shots from the free throw line.
Midseason acquisition Blake Griffin was ineffective due to foul trouble, eventually being disqualified after only 24 minutes and a stat line of 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. However, Anthony Tolliver stepped up in his stead with 15 points, three rebounds, three assists and a plus-5 rating. More importantly, he knocked down 3-of-7 from 3-point range and his ability to space the court gave the Lakers’ defense fits.
Key Stats and Observations
-The Lakers had a poor shooting night from 3-point range, converting only 6-of-23 from deep (26.1 percent) vs. 13-of-33 (39.4 percent) for the Pistons. The 21-point disparity from long-range was a crucial factor in the loss.
-Los Angeles outscored Detroit 54-40 in the paint, one point above the Lakers’ league leading average.
-After the Lakers started the game with a 14-2 advantage in assists, the Pistons outassisted the Lakers 19-15 for the remainder of the game.
-The Lakers’ lack of energy on the defensive end continued on Monday as they were only able to force seven turnovers while tallying three steals. Los Angeles did do a decent job limiting their mistakes with only 10 turnovers of their own.
The Lakers return home on Tuesday to take on the tanking Dallas Mavericks.
Los Angeles will play eight of their remaining nine games at Staples Center, seven of which will be home games and the remaining contest a road game against the Clippers. Hopefully the time at home will afford the Lakers’ players time to rest up, get healthy and benefit from the energy provided by their home fans.