LOS ANGELES — The Detroit Pistons could be the biggest surprise through the first two weeks of the NBA season, and they will try to stay on a roll when they visit the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
The Pistons (5-2) are coming off back-to-back wins against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday and the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. The Clippers were the last unbeaten team before Detroit rallied from 13 points down in the third quarter to win 95-87. The defending champion Warriors were up by 14 in the third quarter before losing to the Pistons 115-107.
“Two games versus two very good teams,’ Detroit leading scorer Tobias Harris said. “The morale in the locker room is great right now. We’re embracing each other. We’re enjoying it. We’re having fun, and that’s the biggest thing. We’re having fun as a team in here.”
Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy is certainly pleased with the success over the weekend, but he realizes there is considerable work ahead for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2007-08 season.
“It’s great and I’m not downplaying it. These two wins are great,” he said. “But it truly is two of 82 (games). We’re seven games into an 82-game season, 75 to go. So you can be really happy and should be. … And then (Monday) you’ve got to start getting yourself ready to play again.”
The Lakers (2-4) have dropped two straight since an impressive overtime win against the visiting Washington Wizards on Wednesday. They let a 17-point third-quarter lead slip away in a 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Friday, and they never led in a 96-81 loss at the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Orange County Register after the Utah loss that he is trying to get his young team to play at a faster pace.
“We’re better when we’re out in transition and we’re not bogged down against a half-court defense,” Walton said. “Because we’re playing so many young guys … we’ve got to get out, let them make plays, where they can use some of their skills, some of their youth to their advantage.”
Lakers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should know Detroit’s tendencies. He was drafted eighth overall by the Pistons in 2013 and spent the past four seasons with the organization. He signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers in July and moved into the starting lineup after serving a five-game suspension to start the season for a DUI arrest last March.
Caldwell-Pope scored 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting in his debut against the New Orleans Pelicans on Oct. 22, but he has combined for 23 points on 8-for-29 shooting in the three games since.
Pistons small forward Stanley Johnson cheered for the Lakers while growing up in Southern California and worked out with Kobe Bryant prior to the 2015 NBA Draft. He was skipped over by the Lakers at No. 2 and taken eighth overall by Detroit.
Johnson had just one game with 15 or more points last season, but he has scored 15 in two of the past three, including Sunday against the Warriors.
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