The Los Angeles Lakers showcased their depth in a victory to open a three-game road trip that should pay dividends for the remainder of it.
They’ll play the second half of a back-to-back set of games Wednesday night when they visit the Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles (9-2) avoided its first three-game skid since March 4-7 with a 118-107 victory at Milwaukee on Tuesday. The highest scoring team in the league trailed by two at halftime before using a 61-point second half to dominate a Milwaukee squad that entered the contest allowing the fewest points per game in the NBA.
“We talked about it at halftime, doing a better job defensively, we were really poor in the first half, just giving layup after layup,” superstar guard Kobe Bryant(notes) said. “It was good. It was not what we’re used to doing, but it’s a step in that direction.”
Bryant led the way with 31 points, but the second-leading scorer was an unlikely source. Shannon Brown(notes) scored a season-high 21 points as he took advantage of fewer minutes for Ron Artest(notes).
“I’m going to keep working and we’re going to keep winning,” Brown said. “It’s more about doing what I’ve got to do to help my team win.”
Brown averaged 8.1 points on 42.7 percent shooting last season - his first with Los Angeles. He’s averaging 11.3 on 52.3 percent shooting this season.
“He’s even a better shooter than he was last year,” Bryant said. “You see him now making plays off the dribble, making plays for others, passing off the dribble. He continues to get better. This is just the beginning for him.”
Artest only played 17 1/2 minutes and asked to come out of the game, but insisted nothing was wrong afterward. Coach Phil Jackson said Artest would play Wednesday - the forward’s fifth game at the Palace of Auburn Hills since the infamous brawl in 2004 with Indiana.
While Detroit (4-7) will be the underdog, the Pistons do have a strong bench like Los Angeles. Two of the Pistons’ three top scorers - Ben Gordon(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes) - play primarily as reserves.
The bench keyed a huge comeback that fell short Monday in a 101-97 loss at Golden State that completed a 2-2 road trip. The Pistons cut a 32-point deficit down to two before losing.
“The passing we showed in the second half is the way we kept this thing within striking distance,” coach John Kuester said. “The guys worked hard and showed a lot of grit. It was a heck of a comeback.”
Gordon and Villanueva combined for 32 points to help fuel the rally.
“We came back down 32, and when you’re doing it in that short of a period (of time) there really isn’t any margin for error,” Gordon said. “I had some bad turnovers. We didn’t execute a couple times on what we wanted to do.”
The Lakers have won three straight in this series since losing 12 of 16, including four of five in the 2004 NBA finals.