'Energy just wasn't there': Pistons fall to Lakers
Los Angeles — Blake Griffin’s first game back at Staples Center wasn’t quite a welcome home. As he was introduced, he got a mix of cheers and boos — and the game didn’t go much better for the Pistons, either.
Without LeBron James, the Lakers used a second-quarter surge to pull ahead and extended it to double digits in the second half, cruising to a 113-100 victory on Wednesday night.
Griffin finished with 16 points and six assists, Reggie Jackson 15 points and five assists and Andre Drummond six points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons (17-22), who play a back-to-back at Sacramento on Thursday.
Kyle Kuzma (Flint) had a career-high 41 points for the Lakers (23-19), who played without LeBron James (groin strain) — and didn’t need him.
“(The frustration) is always high after a loss — coming in with a performance like that, especially when you need wins,” Griffin said. “One through 12, the energy just wasn’t there. We have to figure that out. We did a poor job managing this trip so far.”
The Pistons were ahead, 24-20, after the first quarter but the Lakers started the second with a 19-5 spurt, when former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored nine of his 15 points and Michael Beasley (15 points) added four.
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Kuzma hit a 3-pointer and JeVale McGee (10 points) added a pair of free throws after a flagrant foul by Jon Leuer. Bullock ended the run with a back-cut but McGee responded with an alley-oop pass from Lonzo Ball (five points, five rebounds and 11 assists).
“Disappointed that we didn’t get back when we had a chance in the halfcourt. Easy buckets and when a guy’s in the corner, you have to get back,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s not just a one-night thing — that’s an every-night thing.
“That was a big issue for us and they had so many points in the paint and the blow-bys were concerning.
“The positive was our zone was something we’ll have to look at if we can’t guard one-on-one.”
The Pistons pulled within four after Jackson’s 3-pointer and a dunk by Griffin but the Lakers ran off nine straight points, including a 3-pointer and drive by Ball and a jumper by Kuzma to extend the lead to 49-36 at the 2:20 mark.
The Pistons finished the half with a 9-4 run on a 3-pointer by Griffin and a putback dunk by Drummond for a 55-47 deficit.
Kuzma ignited in the third quarter, going for 22 points, on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers. He scored almost at will, beginning with a three-point play, 3-pointers on three of four possessions, en route to an 89-77 lead heading into the fourth. Ball was the only Lakers starter to play in the final period.
“(Kuzma) had a big night, had his career night. In certain situations, we defended him well and other situations, we did not,” Casey said. “That’s something we have to get better at, one-on-one. A team shoots 55 percent and you’re not going to win too many games when you allow them to shoot that way.”