Phil Jackson on Wednesday, speaking about Detroit's zone defense in an early-season Pistons win over the Lakers:
"Their zone is weak," he said. "That was probably the worst performance (Nov. 10) I've seen a Lakers team play in that building (Staples Center). We couldn't hit an outside shot. We had no direction.
So what happened in Thursday's re-match? The Lakers shot 37% while scoring a season-low 78 points, with Kobe Bryant managing just 18 with eight turnovers. So, Phil, did you change your mind?
"Tonight, they had one of my old players over there orchestrating the triangle defense, and they did a nice job," Jackson said, referring to Pistons assistant Ron Harper. "But the question is if they can do it at that level every night when they need it."
Hmm... Rasheed Wallace disagrees:
"We learned how to defend the triangle during that championship season (2004)," Wallace said. "It's not like they do anything new."
At least Kobe was ready to give praise, even if it comes with just a touch of sour grapes:
"They played like champions," Bryant said. "They are great defensively, and they get a little leeway because of that reputation. Great teams earn that leeway. We haven't played anyone else like that this season."
In any case, Detroit's defense was obviously working, and as we've seen a lot lately, their offense was simply a joy to watch. Four starters scored at least 16 points. Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber each turned in a double-double and Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton combined for 16 assists. (And don't forget C-Webb's sick assist to Tayshaun Prince -- thanks Tim!)
You'd have liked to see the bench get more action, but Antonio McDyess (13 minutes) and Carlos Delfino (17 minutes) each chipped in five boards while Lindsey Hunter (19 minutes) picked up three steals. Jason Maxiell played just five (quiet) minutes. Besides, you know how the Celtics whittled their way back from the would-be blowout on Tuesday? You don't want to give the Lakers that kind of breathing room -- Kobe is capable of pulling his team out of any deficit with just one hot quarter.
Part of the reason McDyess didn't see as much action was because of a sore back. From the Free Press:
McDyess, who played with back spasms in January, often clutched at his back as he ran the court. ... After the game, he said he'd suffered a bruised rib on his left side in Sunday's game in Cleveland.
"I kind of got a bruise," he said, "and it wasn't that bad, but it never went away. The pain never went away."
McDyess said he was hit in the rib going for a rebound. He asked for coach Flip Saunders to take him out in the fourth quarter because it hurt when he turned his torso.
McDyess doesn't think he'll miss any full games, and this just might open up more minutes for Maxiell, which I think we all would like to see.
With the game slipping quickly out of the Lakers' reach, Cook and Coach Phil Jackson argued after Cook dropped his warmups in Jackson's lap upon being inserted into the game during a Detroit free throw with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
Cook had barely reached his spot at the end of the free-throw line when he was yanked in favor of Andrew Bynum.
"I gave him an exhortation, a 'hurry up' type of thing, and he dropped his warmup in my lap, and I just said, 'Take him right back out of the game,' " Jackson said. "We talked about it after the game. He apologized. That's not in character for Brian to do that, but he's frustrated. He hasn't been playing in the regular rotation. There's some things about that that's not unnatural."
After Cook was yanked, he stewed at the end of the bench and talked with a couple of assistant coaches and teammate Luke Walton, who tried to calm him down. Cook thinks it was an accident, but obviously he's not going to win any wars with Jackson, who holds as much cache as any coach in the league.
If a Pistons player did this to Flip Saunders, fans in Detroit would be up in arms, half blaming the player for not respecting the coach and half blaming the coach for not commanding respect of the team. But the truth is, these types of things happen everywhere, even to some of the most respected/winningest in league history.
Pistons 93, Lakers 78 box score [ESPN]
Pistons stick with zone [Detroit News]
McDyess nursing sore ribs [Detroit Free Press]
Lakers have a Cook-out and get burned [LA Times]
DBB Preview: Pistons vs. Kobe, Mike Tyson and Phil Jackson