The Lakers were down 71-69 with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter, but then a 16-0 run blew the game wide open.
Tonight the Lakers were led by Jordan Hill, who scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds – both career highs. It isn’t very often that a player sets career highs in two categories in one night, but it wouldn’t surprise Lakers fans if he were to do it again within the next week or two. Hill is a talented player who, for the first time in his five-year career, has earned the full trust of his coach.
At this point, there is no reason to think that Hill won’t be a starter – and play a starter’s minutes – every game for years to come.
But Hill wasn’t the only Laker to turn in a star performance tonight. Steve Blake set a Lakers’ season high with 16 assists – his fourth consecutive game with at least 10 – while Jodie Meeks and Nick Young each scored a very efficient 19 points. And Pau Gasol flirted with a triple double, recording 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, to go along with three blocks and two steals.
As a team, the Lakers moved the ball very well, and took care of it, too. They recorded a very impressive 33 assists (on 47 baskets, for 70%) against only 13 turnovers, for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 to 1.
Defensively, although they allowed the Pistons to shoot 63% in the first half, the highest percentage they’ve allowed against any opponent in a half this year, they buckled down in the second half and held the Pistons to just 36%.
Hill had a special sequence early in the second quarter, before anyone knew this was going to be a career night for him. With the Lakers down by nine points with 10:50 to go until half-time, Hill entered the game and in 3 minutes and 48 seconds it was all tied up. During those four minutes Hill recorded six points and five rebounds – it was a sign of what was to come.
I think that it’s safe to say coach Mike D’Antoni has settled on a starting line-up and a regular 10-man rotation (at least until Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash return from injury). For the fourth consecutive game D’Antoni started Gasol, Hill, Meeks, Blake and Wesley Johnson, and they delivered once again, collectively scoring 77 points on 58% shooting.
The strong play from the starters has led to fewer minutes and less productivity from the bench as a whole, but not from Nick Young in particular, whose play seems to have improved since being moved to the bench. Young scored his 19 points on 7-13 shooting, and the fact that he recorded no rebounds or assists may even be a good thing – as part of the second unit, he knows that his job is simply to shoot the lights out against the other team’s weaker unit.
Also worth noting is that Jordan Farmar showed more confidence than he has in a few games, recording six points and five assists in 13 minutes, and that Chris Kaman played only five minutes. I suspect that was simply because Hill, and to a lesser extent Gasol, was playing so well.
Although the Lakers had a few highlight reel plays tonight, the play of the game came from the Pistons, with just over three minutes remaining in the first half. Brandon Jennings led a two-on-one break, and from the elbow threw the ball hard at the glass, while Andre Drummond leapt high to grab the “rebound” and slam it home. (The play was properly recorded as an assist.)
If there is one disappointing thought for Lakers fans after this win, it’s that they could not finish off the Grizzlies at home on Friday night. If they could have been sitting at 6-6 after playing 12 games in 20 nights, then that would have been considered a significant accomplishment.
The fact, though, is that the Lakers are 5-7 and sitting in 12th place in the western conference, which is exactly where ESPN predicted they would finish the season. The Lakers have dug themselves a whole, and over the next four days of rest and practice, they will need to seriously consider how they are going to climb out.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
Although several players had strong games, the player of the game was Jordan Hill, who led the Lakers with 24 points and 17 rebounds – both career highs. He scored his points by shooting 11 of 16 from the field, and 2 of 2 from the free throw line.
It was the third time in four games that Hill has been player of the game.
Friday, November 22 at 7:30 p.m. PST vs. the Golden State Warriors
This is an article by Craig Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter: @stevenashchroni