June 14, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

LeBron James leads Lakers past Pistons in double overtime

After the Lakers blitzed the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, LeBron James insisted that talent would take the Lakers only so far, that the team’s tough-mindedness and effort were the difference-makers.

And if they’re good enough to blitz the Nuggets when they play with that energy, then the Lakers certainly are bad enough to lose to the Detroit Pistons when it’s completely absent.

The Lakers made a majority of their shots but missed in almost every other aspect of the game Saturday night at Staples Center, blowing a 17-point lead and almost losing another game against one of the NBA’s worst teams before salvaging a 135-129 win in double overtime.

You don’t always have to be great to win, and the Lakers most certainly were not great. But you have to be engaged and at least a little energized.

The Lakers never really found it, instead relying on tough three-point shots from James and Anthony Davis in the second overtime to finally put the Pistons away on a night that the Lakers weren’t close to their best.

It’s not often you say that about a team that hit 56% of its shots. But here the Lakers were, kind of hanging on against a vastly inferior team, because of mistakes that certainly would be costlier against better competition.

They almost cost them the game against these guys too.

The Lakers looked mostly helpless as they watched a 17-point, third-quarter lead shrink and shrink in the second half, the five-win Pistons almost managing to beat the Lakers for the second time in two weeks.

Even with James and Davis combining to score 63 points, even with Detroit playing without Blake Griffin and a maybe-soon-to-be-traded Derrick Rose, and even with the team focused on improving its level of play on its home floor, the mistakes almost were too much.

As the Pistons refused to quit, the Lakers buckled, their body language telling the story of a team frustrated by its inability to put away Detroit several times.

Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright, right, passes under pressure from Lakers center Marc Gasol, left, and guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope during the first half Saturday.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Josh Jackson tied the game with 3.1 seconds left in regulation, scoring off a runner in the teeth of the Lakers’ defense — the last of his 21 points in the second half. He finished with 28, almost delivering the Pistons an upset.

James had a chance to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter, but his driving layup wouldn’t fall.

Six points from Alex Caruso and a key stop on Detroit’s Jerami Grant at the buzzer pushed the game into a second overtime, where Davis and James ended the game by hitting from deep.

James finished with 33 points and 11 assists, and Davis, who missed the Lakers’ loss in Detroit on their most recent road trip, scored 30.

But the team was incredibly careless with the ball, negating its hot shooting at every turn with bad passes and botched dribbles. The Lakers committed 23 turnovers, 21 coming in regulation, robbing the offense of many possessions in which they likely would’ve scored considering how often the ball was going in.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 135-129 double-overtime win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

Dennis Schroder scored 22, Kyle Kuzma had 14 and Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker each scored 10 off the bench.

The Lakers’ loss in Detroit was one they’d like to forget, but it still was fresh enough in their minds so that they didn’t have to strain to remember.

“There’s a familiarity,” coach Frank Vogel said before the game. “…You’re not introducing a team to them and their identity and style of play and tendencies and all that stuff.”

Now, they finally can forget about those guys — the most importance difference between the two games being Davis’ presence.

He hit his first six shots, the kind of impact offensively the Lakers missed in that loss in Detroit two weeks ago. He finished the game 13 for 22 from the field, scoring at least 30 for just the third time this season.

Grant led the Pistons with 32 and Delon Wright added 22 points and 10 assists on 80% shooting.

The Lakers (18-6) host Oklahoma City on Monday.