LOS ANGELES — After the Los Angeles Lakers blitzed the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, LeBron James insisted that talent would only take the Lakers 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, than the Lakers are certainly bad enough to lose to Detroit when it’s completely absent.
The Lakers made most of their shots and missed in almost every other aspect of the game, wasting a 17-point lead and almost blowing a game against one of the NBA’s worst teams before salvaging a 135-129 in double overtime.
You don’t always have to be great to win, and the Lakers were most certainly not great Saturday night at Staples Center. 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 LeBron James and Anthony Davis in double overtime to finally put the Pistons away on a night where 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 would certainly matter more against better competition.
Turns out they mattered against these guys too.
Mostly helpless as they watched a 17-point third-quarter lead shrink and shrink in the second half, the five-win Pistons almost managed 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 were too much.
As the Pistons refused to quit, the Lakers buckled, their body language telling the story of a team frustrated by their inability to put away Detroit when they had their chances.
Josh Jackson tied the game with 3.1 seconds left in regulation, scoring off a runner in the teeth of the Lakers’ defense — his 24th point of the night with 21 coming 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, but his driving layup wouldn’t fall.
Six points from Alex Caruso and a key stop on 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 and 11 assists, and Davis, who missed the Lakers’ loss in Detroit on their most recent road trip, scored 30.
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