Detroit Pistons vs Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Sunday January 5, 2020. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

Lakers Welcome the Pistons to a Block Party in 106-99 WinThe most staggering statistic of the Lakers’ Sunday night victory over the Pistons was that 40.8 percent of the Pistons’ missed shots came from blocks by the Lakers. 

“We were just protecting the paint,” said Lakers’ forward Anthony Davis, who led the way with 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. “Last game [against New Orleans], we gave up 60-something points in the paint. It’s something we don’t like doing, and we tried to make an emphasis tonight on protecting the paint.” 

The Lakers are the first team in nearly 20 years to tally 20 blocks, the second-highest total in Los Angeles franchise history. Davis (8) and JaVale McGee (6) became just the third pair of teammates in NBA history to finish with at least six blocks each in a game. 

“I mean, I think it’s just an unbelievable feat…Dwight, JaVale and AD, they just make it easy on us,” LeBron James remarked. “To know that you have that safety net behind you…it’s a heck of a luxury.”

Howard had four of his five blocks in the fourth quarter including denying two shots attempted by Pistons’ center Andre Drummond. He added 11 points and nine rebounds to go along with his five blocks. Following one of the blocked shots on Drummond, Howard gave the Dikembe Mutombo signature finger wag. 

Detroit Pistons vs Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball game at Staples Center on Sunday January 5, 2020. (Photo by Jevone Moore)

“I was just in the moment, trying to get the crowd going,” said Howard. “Detroit had hit some big shots, and we needed a lift. AD, he inspired me to want to go out there and try to get as many as I can.” 

“I enjoy it because it gives our team a stop and allows us to get another possession in transition, so anytime I’m able to block a shot, I think it kind of uplifts our team,” Davis, who finished just two blocks shy of his career-high, added. “Not just me, but anyone. I think our bench gets hyped when one of our teammates do something special. And then we have fun with it, hence Dwight doing a finger wag.” 

The Lakers finished one blocked shot short of their franchise record. Los Angeles had 21 blocks against Denver in April 1982.

“Our three big guys just played exceptional basketball,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Those guys took a lot of pride in protecting our rim tonight.”

Despite the exceptional rim protection by the Lakers’ bigs, the game was much closer than anticipated. Drummond tied up the game at 73 all with 1:53 left in the third quarter with a pair of made free throws. 

Former Lakers guard Svi Mykhailiuk nailed a three-pointer to give the Pistons a 76-74 edge as the third quarter wound down that was followed up by another three by Langston Galloway as the Lakers entered the fourth quarter in the hole, 79-75. Mykhailiuk had 14 points for the Pistons off the bench. 

While Derrick Rose scored 28 points for the Pistons in 28:53 minutes of play, Drummond added 12 points on 2-of-13 shooting and 18 rebounds before fouling out late in the game. 

In the final quarter, the Lakers blew a late 11-point lead and nearly lost to a team with a losing record for the first time all season. Alex Caruso, who was a game-time decision due to soreness in his right calf, scored 13 points off the bench as the Lakers clung onto win 106-99 and remain undefeated since Christmas Day. 

Lakers Injuries 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope exited the game just before halftime after rolling his ankle. He got retaped and returned to the game in the third quarter. 

Avery Bradley left the game shortly before halftime with a sprained right ankle. His X-Rays came back negative and will be re-evaluated. Bradley said he was able to return to the game according to Vogel, but the Lakers took precautions to keep him out for the remainder of the game.