So, they're certainly confident their team concept will be
successful against them now with only Kobe Bryant in purple and
Rasheed Wallace paced five Pistons in double figures with 24
points and Detroit pulled away in the third quarter on its way to a
102-93 victory over the Lakers on Sunday night.
Bryant had 39 points on 12-of-28 shooting, a week after scoring
81 -- the second-highest point total in NBA history.
"We feel as though we have five superstars," Detroit's Richard
Hamilton said. "If we want one guy to go out there and average 30,
we can do that. But we know what we want at the end, a
championship, and we know one guy can't guard five guys."
In the 2004 NBA Finals, the Pistons dominated Los Angeles -- with
Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal -- in five games for the title with the
same starters they have this season. New coach Flip Saunders has
made a good defensive team equally effective on offense.
"They just have more sets now and more options," Bryant said.
"They are looser."
With its season-high 11th straight win, Detroit improved to an
NBA-best 37-5 and tied the fourth-best record through 42 games in
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who led those three Bulls teams, said
the Pistons remind him of Chicago's team a decade ago that won a
league-record 72 games because they're winning with ease. Jackson
said the Pistons could have 70 victories if they don't have
"We figured no one would break it for another 30 years, just
like it took for the Lakers' record to be broken," Jackson said.
"So, it is surprising Detroit is pushing for it."
The Pistons have said -- and repeated often -- they're not
interested in chasing regular-season records.
Detroit is motivated, however, to have the league's best record
to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after losing
Game 7 of the NBA Finals at San Antonio last season.
"It won't be fun or breathtaking until the end of the season,"
The Lakers are still reeling from their decision to deal O'Neal
to the Miami Heat two years ago, leaving Bryant with a lackluster
supporting cast. Jackson's return after a year away from basketball
has not managed to make much of a difference.
Chris Mihm, Bryant's only teammate with more than nine points,
had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Bryant, the league's leading scorer, did get loose for a
17-point second quarter against reserve Maurice Evans.
"It didn't matter if (Bryant) had 50, 40, 20, 10 -- the idea was
for us to win," Saunders said. "The idea was not to try to expose
our defense where all the sudden, you have other guys that have
Los Angeles had won two straight and five of its previous seven
Detroit's entire starting lineup scored in double figures:
Hamilton (20), Tayshaun Prince (19), Ben Wallace (14) and Chauncey
Billups (10). Reserve Antonio McDyess added nine points and 10
rebounds in just 17 minutes.
Three Pistons had at least five assists, two more than any
Laker. Ben Wallace grabbed 13 rebounds and Rasheed Wallace blocked
Detroit turned the game into a rout with an 18-4 run midway
through the third quarter, giving them a 78-57 lead. The Lakers
made a late surge to cut their deficit to single digits with 1:22,
but it was much too late.
Detroit made a lot of wide-open baskets with good ball movement,
finding gaps all over the court.
"Some of our players didn't look ready to play," Jackson said.
The Pistons have won four straight regular-season games against
the Lakers for the first time since the 1973-74 season.
"What rivalry?" Rasheed Wallace asked. "It might have been
one back in the day with Joe D, Magic, Kareem and those guys."
Lakers PG Smush Parker had to fly coach to Detroit -- with
luggage for a seven-game trip -- because he overslept and missed his
flight. ... Faces in the crowd included former Detroit Lions
coaches Steve Mariucci and Wayne Fontes along with Michigan coach
Lloyd Carr and athletic director Bill Martin, both guests of
Pistons owner Bill Davidson. When Mariucci was asked if he planned
to take time off from coaching, he said: "A long time off." ...
Billups was cut on the chin in the fourth quarter, and play was
stopped to give him a new jersey. When he changed jerseys, hundreds
of women in the crowd squealed, leading to teammates teasing him
during the ensuing timeout.