The Lakers and Pistons played in a highly entertaining, even if at times ugly, game on Sunday night at Staples Center, with the home team eventually emerging as the victors in a 106-99 win.
Despite some spotty shooting all game, headlined by a woeful third quarter offensive performance, the Lakers rode their defense to a win as they became the first team since the 2001-02 Toronto Raptors to record 20 blocks in a game. Anthony Davis led the way with eight blocks, JaVale McGee swatted six shots, and Dwight Howard added five rejections as they became the ninth team since 1983-84 to record 20 blocks in a game.
It was a dominant performance at the rim by the Lakers, who continue to impose their physical will on teams by sheer size and strength. There are few teams that can compete with their length and it shows in nights like Sunday.
“It’s a reason why they’re the number one team in the league, with blocking shots,” Pistons guard Derrick Rose said after the game. “They have great length with Dwight, McGee and AD back there. In this game that’s something that you rarely see, guys that athletic back there. But that’s why they on this team.”
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 6, 2020
Defense leads to offense for the Lakers in this crazy sequence 🔥 pic.twitter.com/KaQ5lroUf9
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 6, 2020
— NBA (@NBA) January 6, 2020
Davis nearly got his second career triple-double with blocks as he finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, and eight blocks. LeBron James didn’t add to the block total, but did have a triple-double of his own with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists as one of a very few Lakers to have a strong offensive night.
What Frank Vogel has gotten this Lakers defense to do this season has been impressive. He’s unleashed Davis as a do-it-all defender in all situations, from 1-on-1 defense to pick-and-roll to flying over from the help side for blocks. Davis is free to do that when playing next to Howard or McGee because they’ll always stay at home near the rim to clean up should the ball get swung around. The effort on the perimeter has been good enough to run off shooters and funnel the ball to their shot blockers.
“We told them before the game you’re going into the number one shot blocking team in the league,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said during postgame. “Some of you can challenge, but again you’ve got to be smart and kick it out or the drop-offs. That was a learning experience.”
The Lakers have their weaknesses they need to address on the trade or free agency market over the next month-plus, but one thing they have that no one else in the league can match is that size inside. Whether that’s enough to beat some of the top teams remains to be seen, but their ability to be physical and disrupt shots at the rim is second to none, which will be important come playoff time.
Dime’s Martin Rickman contributed reporting to this piece.