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Pistons, with an assist from Lamar Odom, defeat Lakers

Matt is sans Internet this evening, so I'll do my best to sum up tonight's 102-93 Pistons win over the Lakers in similar form.

Very little stands out from what was mostly a formulaic Piston win against a so-so opponent--gradually build a ~10-point lead, go on a defense-led spurt that pushes the advantage to ~20, and coast to the finish line. A few items of note:

1) Kobe Bryant, aka Mamba, got his points (39 of them) but never seized control of the game for any extended period of time (even the ESPN announcers asked whether it was possible to have a "quiet" 34 points early in the fourth). I'll give ESPN some credit here (begrudgingly)--given Kobe's relatively quiet night, they never force-fed the Kobe montages. Instead, with the Pistons comfortably ahead, they chose to focus on the Pistons' pursuit of the 1995-96 Bulls.

2) A Detroit Bad Boys favorite, Carlos Delfino, returned to action tonight after missing the last couple games with the flu. In only four minutes of action, Delfino grabbed three boards, dropped one dime, and played great defense on Kobe. While Delfino and Maurice Evans are very close in terms of offense, I continue to be impressed with Delfino's quickness on defense. Whereas Evans was caught in the air a few times by Bryant, Delfino played Kobe tight on his jumpers while staying in front of him on drives. The Pistons are a more versatile team when they have the ability to call on both Evans and Delfino for a spark off the bench.

3) ESPN announcer Greg Anthony is convinced that the Pistons would defeat the 1995-96 Bulls were they ever to face off. Anthony cited Detroit's balance, as well as the quickness and athleticism of Detroit's defense (which, Anthony points out, is playing in an age where hand-checking has been disallowed--unlike the Bulls D). As usual, ESPN's Tim Legler balanced every compliment he paid Detroit with a comment on how "lucky" the Pistons have been with regards to health. No surprise, Legler also argued the case of Jordan's Bulls in the discussion of the hypothetical matchup between the current Pistons and 1995-96 Bulls. Those who have followed Legler's comments know that he has championed Miami since the beginning of the season, and he seems reluctant to back off from that allegiance (even though Miami is a solid 0-6 this season against the NBA's top four teams--Detroit, Dallas, San Antonio, and Phoenix).

4) Oh yeah, in regards to the title of this post, Lamar Odom--one of the most athletically gifted players in the Association--provided 9 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 8 turnovers. The Pistons, as a team, had only ten turnovers.

For those counting, that's 11 wins in a row. The competition gets a bit tougher heading into the All-Star break. A road game at New Jersey on Tuesday starts a string of 9 games in 15 days (6 of the 9 are on the road, 7 are against likely playoff teams). For any other team, six wins in this stretch would be remarkable, but these Pistons are capable of much more. Expect them to rise to the occasion.

Pistons 102, Lakers 93 box score [ESPN]
Experts: Can the Pistons win 70? Will they? [ESPN]