Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers just couldn’t give a win away to the Detroit Pistons on Super Bowl Sunday. For two and half quarters the Lake Show was in cruise control as they were just overpowering the sloppy Pistons.
Then the Lakers do what they do best these days, blow big leads.
A sure win became anything but as Detroit put together a big run that had this one on level terms late. But it wasn’t enough for the Lakers to simply allow Detroit back into the game, Mike D’Antoni’s team actually did about all they could to hand a win over to Motown.
Earl Clark and amazingly Steve Nash both missed some huge free throws that could have sealed the deal. When was the last time Nash missed two free throws in a month let alone in row?
Luckily for L.A. the young Pistons just couldn’t execute in the clutch routinely relying on Will Bynum to make one-on-one plays in hopes he could breakdown the lazy Laker defense. Bynum did just that but couldn’t get a tough layup to fall thus saving D’Antoni the shame of having to explain yet another lost lead to a subpar opponent. In the end a 98-97 win is what the record will show but the tale of the tape reveals more inconsistencies in this very flawed yet improved Lakers team.
While the L.A. meltdown was pretty predictable it’s suddenly becoming almost impossible to know which version of the Lake Show you’re going to get each game.
Dwight Howard was expected to give it a go as he rejoined the team having had shoulder therapy in Los Angeles. That didn’t happen as Pau Gasol got another start and put together another great game. The Spaniard went for 23 and 10 his second straight 20 and 10 effort as a starter. Think that matters to D’Antoni?
Kobe Bryant had been playing the Magic Johnson role to rave reviews but he put that to rest today reverting to classic Mamba mode…sort of. KB24 finished with 18 on 8 of 20 shooting with 5 dimes and three boards.
There were some clutch moments from Kobe late that helped the Lakers from letting another one slip away but overall his morning/afternoon just wasn’t very memorable.
Now the man that saw his role drastically changed by the reinvented Mamba was Steve Nash. Lately Nash has been an offensive afterthought spending a lot of his time camping out in the corner. Today we saw a more classic Nash as he dished out 10 dimes while breaking down the Piston D with ease.
One man that is becoming increasingly more reliable is Earl Clark who posted yet another double-double with 17 and 10. His high energy has been a welcome addition and the lob he caught at the end of the first half will go down as the highlight of the night for this contest.
With only enough time to get a tip at the rim Kobe threw a perfect inbounds pass that somehow found its way to the front of the rim where a wide open Clark threw it down to give the Lakers an 11 point halftime lead.
That lead would later grow as high as 18 before evaporating into the Motown mist.
Greg Monroe gave the Lakers fits as the soon-to-be All-Star led the way for the Pistons with 20 and 12. The previously mentioned Bynum did damage off the bench as yet another sixth man stung the Lake Show. Bench players having big games against the Lakers is becoming common place so Bynum’s 18 with 10 assists should have been expected.
What can we expect of the Lakers in Boston where the rival Celtics await? Hopefully nothing similar to these last three road games. Unlike T-Wolves and Pistons the Cs are a veteran team that knows how to close contests. If the Lakers allow another big lead to slip away in Boston they’ll be punished. Today’s contest could have easily gone the opposite direction. Thankfully it didn’t. Now four games under .500 the level of competition will increase as the Grammy road swing continues.