Three quick observations from Friday night’s 128-121 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Crypto.com Arena
FLIPPED SCRIPT – If the Pistons could meld the defense they played on Thursday against the Clippers with the offense they mustered on Friday against the Lakers in the same Crypto.Com Arena, they’ll be on their way. After holding the Clippers to 95 points but losing because they shot 19 percent from the 3-point line, the Pistons scored 121 against the Lakers but could not establish any traction at the defensive end. Before the third quarter was out, the Pistons had both allowed more points than they had all of Thursday (96) and scored more (95). The Lakers didn’t have LeBron James, but they had Anthony Davis and he carried Los Angeles and forced the Pistons to foul early and often. Davis finished with 38 points and 16 rebounds and hit 18 of 21 free throws on a night that featured 54 fouls and 72 free throws, 40 for the Lakers and 32 for the Pistons.
The Pistons looked like they had the Lakers on the ropes, taking a 14-point lead with eight minutes left in the first half. But Los Angeles went on a 20-15 run to take the lead and scored 31 points in the last eight minutes of the half to take a 68-64 lead. Cade Cunningham missed his fifth straight game after the Pistons announced a week ago that he’d be out through the Lakers game and then be re-evaluated. The Pistons play next at Sacramento on Sunday. Killian Hayes, starting in Cunningham’s spot, continued his surge with 18 points and nine assists before fouling out with three minutes to play. Hayes hit 4 of 6 from the 3-point line and didn’t commit a turnover in 35 minutes.
FOUL PLAY – Playing without Isaiah Stewart for a second straight game, the Pistons found themselves running short on big men when an epidemic of fouls spread through their ranks in the first quarter. Marvin Bagley, who picked up two fouls in the first six minutes on Thursday and was limited to seven first-half minutes when he picked up a quick third foul in the second quarter, was hit with two fouls in the first 99 seconds against the Lakers. On came Jalen Duren, only to be whistled for eight seconds after entering the game for Bagley and assessed a second at 7:39 of the first quarter, prompting the Pistons to go to Nerlens Noel. Noel lasted 27 seconds before picking up a foul and picked up his second at 5:57 of the first quarter and then a third foul before the first quarter was over. Bagley finished with 11 points and three rebounds in 23 minutes. Duren had 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes and closed the game. Noel played six minutes, all in the first quarter, and finished with three rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
DASHING DIALLO – Hamidou Diallo was a blur of activity when he entered the game in the first quarter, underscoring the qualities Dwane Casey values in keeping Diallo in the rotation despite his lack of a perimeter threat and being undersized. Diallo can be a force in transition and he’s an intuitive cutter and those things often create easy scoring chances for a Pistons team that can go through stretches when they struggle to score. Diallo was a big part of the push that saw the Pistons take a 14-point lead in the second quarter, scoring nine points in 10 first-half minutes on 4 of 5 shooting, missing his only 3-point attempt but making four shots in the paint. With 8:22 to play, Diallo scored on another basket cut but took a hard shot to the mouth, knocking a front tooth out, from Thomas Bryant in the process that was ruled a flagrant-1 foul. Diallo stayed in the game with cotton gauze in his mouth to absorb the blood while he made the free throw, then headed to the locker room for treatment. Seconds later, Saddiq Bey turned an ankle when he landed on the foot of Austin Reaves and did not return. Bey has played in 152 consecutive games. Burks led the Pistons in scoring with 23 points, hitting 5 of 8 from the 3-point line.