Four minutes and 59 seconds into the game, Rip Hamilton was called for fouling Kobe Bryant. Clearly frustrated (or perhaps not), the Detroit Piston veteran continued to jaw at NBA official Derrick Stafford until he was forced to hand Hamilton two consecutive technicals, resulting in his early game ejection. Hamilton took off his faceguard, took off his headband, untucked his jersey, and walked off the court. There’s your leader, Detroit. No wonder you look so lost.
The Bad Boys’ era is ancient history, and the hopes of more Championship Pistons Basketball disappeared the minute Chauncey Billups was sent packing off to Denver. Not even the monster signing of Ben Gordon could revive the Pistons and the last couple of seasons have begged the question: What or who is going to keep this Detroit team running?
Thankfully, the Lakers (occasional lapses of complacency and boredom aside), are a well-oiled machine and they’ve got the slickest of grease monkeys in Kobe Bryant. After Hamilton’s ejection, Bryant hit four free throws in a row to give the Lakers a 15-7 lead. By the end of the first quarter, he had 14 points on 4-6 from the field, but he wouldn’t stop there. He hit a jumper to give the Lakers a 10-point lead, then followed it with a one-handed floater to give them a 12-point lead. Bryant may have hit a baseline jumper from all corners of the Palace tonight. By halftime, he had 24 points on 8-13 from the field. He was one rebound away from a double-double with 33 points on 11-20 (3-6 from 3PT), nine rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Never to be outdone by that Kobe guy were, again, the Odom-Gasol duo. There aren’t enough words to describe the impact the Lakers’ frontline talent and skill has on the Lakers’ success and on other teams’ demise. Odom had 15 points on 5-8, 14 monster rebounds, not to mention four assists. Gasol had 25 huge points on 10-17, 12 rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block. Two well-rounded games from two truly renaissance men of the NBA.
Odom and Gasol play so succinctly together, that most times it appears as if one nod or one twitch of the eye sends the other moving in the right direction or position to receive an assist or to hand one out. In the third quarter, Odom threw a right-handed, behind the back pass to Gasol for a hoop and 1 and that gave the Lakers their biggest lead, 76-50. Having ONE of them to contend with is maddening enough, but TWO? The Pistons had no answer for either, let alone both.
The Lakers won the battle of the boards tonight, 42-30 (13-11 OFF). Their 12 turnovers have looked worse, but with the Pistons only making five mistakes, the Lakers could stand to take better care of the ball. They shot 47% to the Piston’s 40% and converted on 7-16 from behind the arc. Matt Barnes, in for only a few seconds, hit one instantaneously when he entered the game.
In two days the Lakers have a rematch with the Minnesota Timberwolves in their city of origin. Hopefully Kevin Love’s 24 rebounds from the last time the two teams met (or his 31 rebounds in a recent game) is a stat that L.A. will keep from coming to fruition.
Phil Jackson breaks the season’s wins in a unique way – be the first to ten, then the first to 20, and so on. With this, the Lakers are the first to 10. So far so good.
Pre-game Thoughts: The Pistons are certainly not what they used to be, but like every opponent they meet, they cannot be overlooked by the Lakers. Hopefully last night’s win against Milwaukee has the Champs charged up for another great contest.
Half-time Thoughts: 59-45 – Kobe Bryant’s leading the way with his 24 points on 8-13 (62%)!! The Lakers are shooting 57% as a team and have held the Pistons to 43% shooting.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: There’s one on each side tonight. First, Rip Hamilton, for jawing at official Derrick Stafford so much that he got hit with two technicals and ejected with 7:01 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Way to ditch your team! Second, Sasha Vujacic – His minutes are already scarce, but he spends the time he DOES get on the floor shooting every chance he gets, rather than playing the game right. He went 1-6 in 5:45 minutes of play and was partly to blame for the huge lead getting reduced as much as it did in the final quarter.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant and his 33 points! He also had nine rebounds, four assists and two steals. No one’s thinking about that knee now, right?