The Detroit Pistons trailed by one point at halftime of Tuesday night’s battle against the Los Angeles Lakers. Things were looking up. Josh Smith had 15 points at intermission, missing only three shots and making all three of his free throw attempts (that’s progress for a 42.6% free throw shooter). Perhaps most importantly, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant was held scoreless in the first two quarters, missing all five of his shot attempts along the way.
But in the blink of an eye, it all came crashing down, as the Lakers exploded for 35 points in the third en route to a comfortable 106-96 victory. Bryant heated up in that third frame, compensating for his slow start by reeling off 12 consecutive points during a two minute stretch. By the time the fourth quarter began, the Pistons trailed by 16 and hope was all but lost.
The Pistons played undisciplined throughout most of the evening, struggling to limit the Lakers to one shot (L.A. finished with 12 offensive rebounds) while repeatedly fouling jump shooters – committing the defensive mortal sin on at least four separate occasions.
After the debacle that was the third quarter, coach Stan Van Gundy made a statement by opening the fourth with a lineup that included Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome, who’d each play all 12 minutes in the final stanza after not playing at all through the first three. The energy brought forth by Datome and Jerebko led Detroit to within 8 points of the Lakers on numerous occasions, but it was too little, too late – the damage had already been done.
Detroit once again struggled to make shots, connecting on just 36.7% of their attempts from the field. Josh Smith led the Pistons with 18 points, though just three came after intermission. Andre Drummond provided 8 points and 13 rebounds (12 in the first half) but was held out of the fourth quarter by coach Van Gundy.
Kobe Bryant’s lone surge in the third quarter accounted for all of his points on the night. Looking to pass first, Bryant finished with 12 points (4-11) and 13 assists. However, he frequently succumbed to pressure, committing a season-high 10 turnovers along the way.