Sluggish Pistons fall to .500 with loss to Lakers

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — In coach-speak, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. If it’s to a struggling team, though, a loss might be even more than a loss.

In the midst of a losing skid, a bad loss might count double.

Needing a win to end their three-game losing streak, the Pistons showed their road-weary legs and limped through a 97-85 loss to the struggling Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night at the Staples Center.

The Pistons lost their fourth in a row after a promising start to the West Coast road trip, finishing the six-game stint at a disappointing 2-4, following back-to-back wins over the Phoenix Suns and Portland Trail Blazers.

BOX SCORE: Lakers 97, Pistons 85

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy summed up the road trip succinctly: “It was awful. You lose four in a row, there’s no other way to put it.”

The Pistons (5-5) were on the second of back-to-back games for the second time in the road trip — losing to Golden State and the Lakers — and looked to be to be meandering their way through the second half, continuing the offensive struggles that plagued them during the trip.

Andre Drummond had 17 points and 17 rebounds, extending his streak of double-doubles in every game this season and Spencer Dinwiddie had a season-high 17 points off the bench.

Pistons' Van Gundy looking to spell Morris

“Spencer played really well and Andre played pretty well on the offensive end. Other than that, we just didn’t have anything,” Van Gundy said. “We played hard tonight; I didn’t have a problem with the effort.

“Offensively, we’re a little bit of a mess right now and we’re not making any shots.”

The Pistons had their worst shooting night (37 percent, on 35-of-96 field goals) of the road trip and struggled to find any rhythm without leading scorer Reggie Jackson, who managed just nine points — 12 below his average — with three assists and five turnovers in 24 minutes.

Van Gundy took Jackson’s subpar play in stride, but knows the leading scorer has to be more consistent for the Pistons to have success.

“Tonight, his decision-making was terrible. He was trying to go behind his back, in the middle of the lane,” Van Gundy said. “He just had a really bad night. The guy has had a really heavy workload on this trip.”

Kobe Bryant had 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists and Jordan Clarkson added 17 points for the Lakers (2-8), who ended their four-game skid and won at home for the first time this season.

Bryant played a season-high 36 minutes and provided the spark the Lakers needed.

“He was a calming influence out there with a lot of our young guys, so we just wanted to go the rest of the game and see if we could get the (win),” Lakers coach Byron Scott said.

The Pistons trailed by double digits in the first half, but rallied for a 7-0 spurt, with a drive by Dinwiddie, a 3-pointer by Ersan Ilyasova and a basket by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (10 points), to trim the deficit to 39-36 with 3:26 left in the second quarter.

The Lakers had a 48-44 halftime lead but the Pistons closed the gap in the third quarter, tying it at 66 entering the final period.

After a 3-pointer from Anthony Tolliver, the Pistons went ahead for the final time, 72-69, with 10:19 left, but the Lakers answered with a 9-0 run, highlighted by Bryant’s drive and two baskets from Nick Young (13 points).

Drummond ended the run with a dunk, but Roy Hibbert (12 points, seven rebounds) had four straight points and ignited a decisive 11-3 spurt, including a 3-pointer by Bryant and a jumper by  Clarkson.

That pushed the lead to 89-77, the Lakers’ largest margin of the game, and the Pistons didn’t have an answer down the stretch.

Dinwiddie responds

Dinwiddie’s 17-point night was three off his career high. With so many tired legs among the starters, Van Gundy made a concerted effort to get more time for Dinwiddie, who has played sparingly this season, and Reggie Bullock.

It paid off in Dinwiddie’s play, who was one of the best offensive options (6-of-9 from the field) in his 24 minutes.

Dinwiddie said the production wasn’t about giving him confidence; rather, it was a calming tone to an otherwise hectic game.

“I think it settles you down a little bit,” he said. “When you see the first shot go down, and everybody’s like, ‘Great job,’ obviously it slows you down.

“You just start playing instead of (thinking): ‘Let me make sure that this next play is a good one.’”

Drummond's feat

Drummond had his 10th straight double-double this season and shot 8-of-18 from the field, going against one of the best defensive centers in the league in Hibbert.

Drummond held his own, and drew praise from Bryant for his gaudy numbers this season.

“He’s just taking his game to a whole new stratosphere,” Bryant said. “It’s amazing — you feel like you’re doing a good job on him and he had 17 rebounds. That’s crazy.”