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Lakers turning it up, host league-worst Pistons

Feb 9, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell (1) shoots against New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) and forward Larry Nance Jr. (22) during the first half at Crypto.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

One game after they had one Los Angeles team on the ropes, only to lose, the Detroit Pistons take their shot at another on Tuesday.

The visiting Pistons will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first game of a back-to-back, with a visit to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday before heading into the All-Star break.

Synergy will be the goal this week as the new-look Pistons incorporate a number of players into the lineup following last week’s trade deadline. A trio of new options made their Pistons debut on Saturday, as Simone Fontecchio, Troy Brown Jr. and Shake Milton all came off the bench.

Fontecchio, who could be headed for a starting role, had 20 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s 112-106 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Detroit led by 13 points in the third quarter and started the fourth with a five-point advantage before getting overwhelmed late.

Brown contributed eight points and Milton had four to help the cause.

“I thought they came out and played their games within the system,” Pistons coach Monty Williams said. “And I told those guys that very thing: Be who you are until you pick up what we’re doing.”

Jaden Ivey led Detroit with 23 points and Cade Cunningham had 22, but the Clippers won with a 36-point fourth quarter after the Pistons held them to a combined 45 points in the second and third periods.

“I like the fact that we battled from start to finish,” said Williams, whose team has an NBA-low eight victories. “We adjusted to having new guys on the floor.

“There were certain moments in the game where I could have done a better job with the rotation or change the defensive scheme to help our guys. But I saw a little bit of what we can be with the group.”

The Lakers appear to have a full head of steam again in an up-and-down season. Los Angeles won for the fourth time in five games when it took care of the New Orleans Pelicans 139-122 at home on Friday.

The Lakers also are on the first day of a back-to-back, with a Wednesday visit to the Utah Jazz before the All-Star break arrives.

The Lakers did not make a move at the deadline, which means presumed trade bait D’Angelo Russell did enough during a recent hot streak to keep his spot on the team. To show his appreciation, Russell scored a team-best 30 points in the victory over the Pelicans.

Russell has averaged 24.1 points over his past 12 games to raise his scoring average on the season to 17.5 and has returned to his starting role alongside Austin Reaves, who added 27 points on Friday. The backcourt duo combined to go 9 of 17 from 3-point range.

“We’ve been doing a good job playing together, playing for each other,” said the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, who had 20 points vs. New Orleans, while fellow starters Rui Hachimura and LeBron James each had 21.

“And then (as) a result of that, you have guys shooting the ball with confidence and playing with confidence, which leads to five starters for 20-plus (points).”

While the Lakers did not make a trade last week, they did make an addition, as Los Angeles native Spencer Dinwiddie was signed Saturday after he was traded from the Brooklyn Nets to the Toronto Raptors then waived.

Dinwiddie is expected to be available Tuesday.

–Field Level Media

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