Pistons push defending champ Lakers to two overtimes before falling
The Pistons weren’t quite ready for their western trip to end just yet.
Not without another thrilling game against the Los Angeles Lakers this season.
The Pistons made the finale of their 10-day trip an exciting one, taking the defending champions to two overtimes before falling to a 135-129 loss on Saturday night at Staples Center. The Pistons had a chance at a season sweep over the Lakers, following their improbable victory on Jan. 28 at Little Caesars Arena.
Jerami Grant tied his career high with 32 points and six assists, Josh Jackson added 28 points and eight rebounds and Delon Wright 22 points and 10 assists for the Pistons (5-18).
Jackson led the furious comeback with 17 points in the third and fourth quarters and Grant took over in the overtime periods, with 12 of his points.
It still wasn’t enough.
In the second overtime, LeBron James (33 points and 11 rebounds) helped put the game away with eight points, including a drive and a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers (18-6) the lead for good.
“I was proud the way the guys played. There are so many learning situations for young players and our guys to play against a great team like the Lakers, we have no margin for error,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The effort, the togetherness, the toughness we played with is what we're trying to build.
“You're talking about two-year and three-year guys in the league going against the champions. That's something we should build on, but now our challenge is to do it consistently and that's something that we haven't found that formula yet that we can do it on a nightly basis.”
The Pistons were shorthanded, playing without Derrick Rose, who sat out for what Casey called “personal reasons,” amid swirling reports that the Pistons are looking to trade him. They also were without Blake Griffin, who was resting on the second game of a back-to-back, and Wayne Ellington and Jahlil Okafor, who were nursing injuries.
Even so, the Pistons stood up to the defending champions, who have one of the best records in the league.
The Lakers led, 80-63, near the end of the third quarter, and the Pistons looked to be on their way to a second consecutive double-digit loss, after falling to the Suns on Friday night. The Pistons fought back, with a 3-pointer by Wright, and back-to-back 3-pointers by Jackson, to get within 82-72 at the 2:26 mark of the third. Following a three-point play, the deficit was in single digits.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Pistons kept chipping away and after a 3-pointer by Jackson and a lay-in by rookie Saben Lee, the Pistons were within four. The Lakers didn’t score in the last 4:06 of regulation and the Pistons finished with six straight points, capped by Jackson’s spinning drive to the basket with 3.1 seconds remaining, to tie it at 106.
In the first overtime, Mason Plumlee (15 points, eight rebounds and six assists) scored on a putback and Jackson hit a turnaround for the Pistons’ first lead since the first half. Alex Caruso converted a three-point play and after Plumlee answered with a three-point play, Caruso hit a 3-pointer. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored on a transition dunk to retake the lead, 114-113, for the Lakers at the 1:42 mark.
Grant answered with a three-point play and James scored on a drive to knot the score at 116. After two free throws from Grant, Anthony Davis (30 points) tied it again on a dunk with 18.1 seconds remaining, before going to the second overtime period.
Grant kept the momentum going, with a reverse and another drive in the first 2:22 of the second overtime, capping his streak of nine straight Pistons points bridging the two overtime periods. The Pistons led, 122-121 at the 2:38 mark before James took over the game late.