Below are five things to take away from the Lakers’ 114-99 victory Sunday over the Detroit Pistons at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers broke the game open with a third-quarter run. In a game that featured nine ties and five lead changes, the Lakers finally broke the game open by pouring out loads of energy in a 10-0 third-quarter run. Nick Young hit drove to the basket and followed up with an open three-pointer and jumper. Jordan Farmar then capped the run with a baseline jumper. The Lakers’ run went beyond hitting some clutch shots. They showed plenty of hustle in staying disciplined on defense.
Detroit tried to close the gap late in the game, thanks to a flurry of baskets by Brandon Jennings (23 points. But the Lakers had already built a deep enough cushion by because of their third-quarter run.
2. Jordan Hill continues to impress. As he walked up the floor in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Staples Center crowd stood up and gave him a rousing ovation. Understandable considering Hill had provided his usual staple of hustle, rebounding and post points. But Hill wasn’t done. He entered the lineup a few minutes later, dropping a mid-range jumper and providing more of the energy that’s made him a fan favorite. Hill’s 24 points and 17 rebounds both matched career-highs, and shows that he’s taking a larger and larger role on the rotation.
In addition to his usually strong work ethic, Hill has shown vast improvement with his post moves and spacing. It’d be a stretch to say Hill can become a stretch-forward. But with Hill showing an eagerness to improve, it appears he still has plenty of upside.
3. Steve Blake seemingly did everything. The minute he stepped on the floor, Blake validated Mike D’Antoni’s belief he’d be a perfect fit for his system. He showed aggressiveness. Blake made plays for others. He always scrapped. So Blake’s seven point performance and 12 assists is hardly surprising, considering he notched at least 10 assists in four consecutive games. But his performance played a large part in ensuring the Lakers had tons of energy. Blake connected on alley-oop lobs for Wesley Johnson. Blake found Jodie Meeks open on back-door cuts on a dime. Anytime there was a chance to get a loose ball or make a deflection, Blake was there to get it.
Blake may not always have a perfect game, such as his four turnovers or missing a potential game winner Friday against Memphis. But Blake will always bring effort every night. And he will deliver, whether it’s a game-winning trey against Houston or just making all his teammates better against Detroit.
4. The Lakers had no answer for Detroit’s frontline. No matter how much they preached staying disciplined on offense, the Lakers had no answer for the Piston’s frontline in Josh Smith (17 points, six rebounds), Greg Monroe (13 points, seven boards) and Andre Drummond (12 points, 11 rebounds). Part of their never-ending loop of fast-break dunks stemmed from the Lakers committing 10 turnovers. But it also reflects the Pistons outrebounding the Lakers, 32-27, including a 12-8 advantage on the offensive glass.
This shouldn’t be surprising. The Lakers have shown all season they can’t stop various forwards, whether it’s rising stars (New Orlean’s Anthony Davis), third-string center (Denver’s Timofey Mozgov) or the league’s best big men (Memphis’ Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph). But the Lakers need to show more physicality and organization on their interior defense. The Lakers still absorbed Detroit’s inside production. But the Lakers haven’t shown they can offset that problem in other areas consistently.
5. The Lakers look comfortable at the small forward spot. Nick Young’s 19 points on 7 of 13 shooting marked his fourth consecutive game he has scored double digits off the bench. Wesley Johnson’s 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting marked the third time in the past four games he has shot above 50 percent. It’s clear that Johnson and Young are most comfortable at their respective starting and backup small forward spots. The Lakers originally envisioned things playing out differently. They thought Johnson would serve as a good power forward because of his inconsistent shooting and ability to use his length and athleticism to offset the physical advantage from other power forwards. The Lakers also viewed Young as the primary shot creator in the starting lineup because of Kobe Bryant’s indefinite absence from his left Achilles tendon. But it’s clear the Lakers shouldn’t fix what isn’t broke.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org