Winning games when you don’t play your best, particularly against teams under .500, is crucial during the NBA season, says Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. The woeful Detroit Pistons offer a case in point.
“Listen, we bring out the best in the Pistons,” said James, who finished with 33 points on 13-for-26 shooting, 11 assists and four steals after the Lakers beat the league’s worst team 135-129 in double overtime on Saturday at Staples Center.
“They’ve had two really good games versus us — another was tonight,” said James. “We give out credit where credit is due. They played well but we got enough stops and we made enough shots to win the game. Every game is going to have its own challenges and we accept all challenges, and we did that tonight.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder, who are two games under .500 at 10-12, will present another obstacle for the Lakers on Monday when they play the first of consecutive contests. They meet again Wednesday.
Against the Pistons, the Lakers, who own the NBA’s second-best record at 18-6, avoided an embarrassing loss to a club missing key performers including Blake Griffin (rest), Derrick Rose (personal reasons) and Wayne Ellington (calf).
Anthony Davis scored 30 points, Dennis Schroder contributed 22 points and eight assists and Kyle Kuzma added 14 points and six boards, but a late drought offensively almost cost the Lakers.
A lack of offense in the second half almost resulted in a setback for Oklahoma City on Saturday.
However, the Thunder prevailed in a 120-118 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Thunder, who had seven players score in double figures.
“We’re competitors at the end of the day,” Gilgeous-Alexander told the team’s website. “That’s first and foremost, and that’s one of things that we hang our hat on each night.”
Mike Muscala scored 22 points before leaving in the fourth quarter with a concussion. He isn’t expected to play the first game in Los Angeles. Hamidou Diallo finished with 15 points and six rebounds as the Thunder held on after blowing a 23-point lead.
Oklahoma City rolled to an 83-62 lead at the break, setting a franchise record for points in a half. However, the Wolves rallied by outscoring the Thunder 32-13 in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 96-94 heading into the fourth.
A bucket by Darius Bazley, who finished with 13 points, with 1:16 remaining was the difference as neither team scored again.
“Obviously, we went into halftime with a big lead and we didn’t keep our foot on the pedal, let them back in it,” said Gilgeous-Alexander, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter. “But at the end of the day, we did enough to get a win.”
Oklahoma City’s Al Horford (rest) and Isaiah Roby (foot) missed the contest.
The Lakers pounded the Thunder 128-99 at Oklahoma City on Jan 13. James scored 26 points. Gilgeous-Alexander had a team-high 17 points.
–Field Level Media