Rod Beard breaks down the Pistons loss to the Lakers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Los Angeles — Getting two victories on their west coast trip was a surprise. Getting all three would have been the icing on the cake and would have made a bold statement about the Pistons early in the season.
Two will have to do.
After making many in the league raise their collective eyebrows with victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors in the first two games of the trip, the Pistons dropped the finale to the Los Angeles Lakers, 113-93, on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Reggie Jackson had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists, Tobias Harris 18 points and Andre Drummond 10 points, 12 rebounds and five assists for the Pistons (5-3), who next play Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks at Little Caesars Arena.
Coach Stan Van Gundy said before the game that the final game of the three-game trip would test the Pistons in seeing how they handled the success of their first two improbable wins, facing a Lakers team that had struggled early in the season.
He didn’t mince words about the disappointing results.
“They dominated us with their energy. They were better at both ends, they played harder and sharper,” Van Gundy said. “It was a humbling experience for our guys; it certainly was for me.
“They absolutely dominated the full 48 minutes; they won all four quarters and we never got it under double figures in the second half. They dominated us and got whatever they wanted and we had no fight in us. It was a bad, bad night.”
It was also the first game against former Piston Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who signed with the Lakers in free agency in the offseason.
The Pistons struggled to get to the free-throw line, only getting their first attempt with 6:25 left in the game, on a drive by Jackson for a three-point play. They finished just 1-of-3 from the line, setting franchise records for fewest attempts and fewest made free throws. The previous record was five attempts, last done in April.
The Pistons started slow, hitting just 6 of their first 17 field goals, but were fueled by Jackson’s seven straight points in the first four minutes, taking a 9-5 advantage. But Caldwell-Pope (13 points) answered with a lay-in and Brook Lopez added a putback on a pass from Lonzo Ball, who had 13 points and six rebounds, to tie it.
After a putback by Drummond, the Lakers responded with a drive by Brandon Ingram (13 points) and a 3-pointer by Caldwell-Pope, sparking a 16-5 run, and the Lakers pushed the lead to 21-14.
Stan Van Gundy discusses the Pistons loss to the Lakers. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
“They just came out with a lot of energy and punched first,” Jackson said. “They found some rhythm, got comfortable and it was hard to slow them down after that.”
The Lakers (3-4) got a lift from reserve forward Julius Randle (17 points), who imposed his will on the inside, hitting four baskets in a three-minute span. Along with a lay-in by rookie Kyle Kuzma (16 points), the Lakers started the second quarter with a 13-2 run, capped by a drive and 3-pointer by Kuzma, who finished 4-of-4 from beyond the arc.
“He has been really good since we have started playing him in that backup center role. He has just been playing with great energy,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “He can change games and he did tonight with the way he came in and played with that second unit in the first half.”
The Lakers extended the lead to 58-45 at halftime, with a 3-pointer by Lopez at the buzzer.
As they had in the first two games of the road trip, the Pistons trailed by double digits, but when they cut it to 11 early in the fourth quarter, they never got another basket to get it down to single digits.
The Lakers had 62 points in the paint, with physical play from Kuzma and Randle, getting deep penetration on drives, setting up easy shots inside. That helped seven Lakers finish in double figures in points.
“They shot so well from 3 because they were getting in the paint. We weren’t into the ball and I wasn’t as well, letting Lonzo get into the paint and make plays for teammates," Jackson said. "Guys just got in a rhythm, felt good and got into transition. They made it difficult and played a hell of a game. They were the aggressor and came out with the win tonight."