AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Lakers whipped the Detroit Pistons tonight because: 1. They ran an offense and the Pistons didn’t. 2. They played something resembling defense and the Pistons didn’t. 3: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom made sure the Lakers wouldn’t mess around and let the Pistons gain confidence. They led and the rest of the Lakers followed for a resounding victory. Bryant scored 33 points, Gasol had 25 and Odom added 15 points plus 14 rebounds.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kobe Bryant is halfway to a monster game tonight against the hapless Detroit Pistons. He has 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting in the first half. It’s uncertain if he will play enough in the second half to reach 40 or more points. He scored almost at will against the undersized Pistons, who lost Rip Hamilton to two technical fouls in the first half and then appeared to lose Tracy McGrady to a sprained ankle. McGrady returned near the end of the half after the Pistons said he might be finished for the night.
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Andrew Bynum moved a couple of tentative steps closer to returning to the practice court (next week maybe?), but still couldn’t say when he would make his 2010-11 debut. He sounded fairly sure he would be practicing with his teammates by Thanksgiving, but playing in a game for the first time since undergoing offseason knee surgery remains a mystery. “I don’t know yet,” he said before the Lakers’ game tonight against the Pistons. “I have to no idea. If these workouts continue to go well, hopefully, I’ll be on time. But if I get soreness or something like that, I’ll have to slow down a little bit.”
MILWAUKEE — The Lakers ended their two-game losing streak by defeating the Milwaukee Bucks tonight for their ninth victory in 11 games to start the season. Kobe Bryant scored 31 points, grabbed seven rebounds and added three assists for the Lakers. Shannon Brown scored 21 points in a reserve role and Pau Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds. Brandon Jennings scored 19 of his 31 points for Milwaukee in the first half. Next: Detroit.
Ron Artest scored seven points in only 17 minutes, 30 seconds amid speculation that he was injured. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Artest wasn’t feeling right, but declined to elaborate. Artest said he would have to check with Jackson before responding to reporters’ questions about his fitness. He said he would play in Wednesday’s game against Detroit.
MILWAUKEE — The ex-Clipper Factor is in full effect tonight. Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Lamar Odom of the Lakers are former Clippers. Milwaukee’s Earl Boykins, Keyon Dooling and Corey Maggette played for the Clippers, too. None of them had the impact that Brandon Jennings had on the game in the first half. Jennings scored 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting for the Bucks.
MILWAUKEE — Playing at UCLA has its rewards well beyond the obvious ones. Just ask former Bruins standout Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports today, got his introduction to Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant in a few pickup games at UCLA. Mbah a Moute will guard Bryant tonight. “I was fortunate enough to be at UCLA when we had a lot of pros come in (during the summer),” Mbah a Moute said. “To play with those guys, Kobe, Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, you name it. It was intimidating, but it was more fun. Those guys were our role models because we saw them on TV.”
MILWAUKEE — Theo Ratliff underwent surgery on his left knee today and will be sidelined a minimum of four to six weeks, the Lakers announced. Team orthopedist Steve Lombardo performed the 30-minute procedure this morning. Ratliff played eight games and averaged 0.3 points and 1.6 rebounds before missing the last two games because of tendinitis. The Lakers could use Andrew Bynum’s services right about now, but there’s no firm date for his return to the practice court after he underwent offsesaon right knee surgery.
MILWAUKEE — Lamar Odom and Theo Ratliff underwent MRIs today, which revealed Odom has a bone bruise in his right foot and Ratliff needs arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Odom will play Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Lakers will learn more about Ratliff’s recovery time after Tuesday’s surgery. Also, Steve Blake’s stomach ailment, which kept him from playing in Sunday’s loss to Phoenix, is over and he’ll play Tuesday.
MILWAUKEE — I gave this some serious thought on the flight here today, and I think the NBA’s crackdown on complaining about referees’ calls or non-calls is a wise move. So far, though, the referees aren’t letting the players get away with anything. Nothing. Every wave of the arms or vocal outburst, no matter how brief, is grounds for a technical foul.
Keep your hands up too long, it’s a technical. Grumble about a call, it’s a technical. The rule needs to be tweaked a bit. Lamar Odom shouldn’t have been T’d up late in Sunday’s game for yelling, “And one,” after he believed he had been fouled. It seemed a little harsh given the closeness of the score and the late time in the game.
There have been a few other instances around the league when the referees have gone too far. NBA commish David Stern wants an end to the whining and complaining. OK, fine. But this is an emotional game and the players should get a chance to vent a little for a second or two. No one wants a running words between players and referees.
The constant complaining is pointless and should be curbed, but when a player shouts after a play and then shuts up, that should be the end of it. The punishment has to fit the crime. In the case of Odom on Sunday, the punishment did not fit the crime. Odom had a beef (it looked like he was fouled) and he should have been granted a moment to air it.
The Phoenix Suns torched the Lakers tonight, making a franchise-record 22 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. They also came up one shy of the NBA record set by the Orlando Magic in January 2009. In the process, the Suns exposed a weakness in the Lakers’ game: perimeter defense. Jason Richardson scored 35 points on 13-for-20 shooting, including 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. Channing Frye scored 20 points on 4-for-9 shooting on 3s. Steve Nash had 21 points and 13 assists. Kobe Bryant scored 25 points, grabbed nine rebounds and added 14 assists for the Lakers. Pau Gasol added 28 points and 17 rebounds, but it was all but lost in the flurry of Suns’ 3-pointers.