The stumbling Los Angeles Lakers simply haven’t been able to get on track without Kobe Bryant.
The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, finally put it all together in a big win their last time out.
Hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss, the Lakers will try to continue their recent success against the visiting Pistons on Sunday night.
Los Angeles (4-7) has had a rough go of it, dropping four of its last five and into fourth place in the Pacific Division. The Lakers, giving up 104.3 points per game to rank near the bottom of the NBA, are also averaging just 98.1 on 42.0 percent shooting - significantly lower than last season’s marks of 102.2 and 45.8 percent.
“Kobe’s not out there to bail us out, but we have good players on this team and everyone is confident in one another,” said guard Jodie Meeks, who leads the team with 13.2 points per contest. “It’s frustrating, but we’re not panicking.”
Bryant returned to practice Saturday for the first time since he tore his Achilles seven months ago and went through some light drills, but there is still no timetable for his return.
The Lakers’ woes continued Friday in an 89-86 loss to Memphis. Meeks scored a season-high 25 on 10-of-16 from the field and Nick Young added 18 off the bench, but Los Angeles was outrebounded 51-40 and went just 6 of 11 from the foul line.
“We played a hard-nose game the entire time and they took a close one,” said Pau Gasol, who had 10 points and 13 boards. “We played as hard as we could and hopefully that will be enough to get a win against Detroit (in) our next home game.”
The Lakers, who have already been held to 90 points or fewer in four games, dropped to 1-6 when failing to reach 100.
“We have to score more points and we have to make bigger plays,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “The ball has got to keep moving.”
Los Angeles will try to bounce back against the Pistons (3-5), who have dropped seven of eight in the series, including three straight road matchups by an average of 22.3 points. Gasol, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds in a 98-97 victory at Detroit on Feb. 3, has scored at least 20 in four of the last five meetings.
The Pistons gave up an average of 110.0 points during a four-game losing streak before pulling out a 97-90 win at Sacramento on Friday. Josh Smith led the way with 21 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, five steals and four blocks.
“He was spectacular,” coach Maurice Cheeks told the team’s official website. “In order for us to be really good, this is the way Josh has to play and he’s capable of doing this. He was really, really good.”
Andre Drummond also came up big with 15 points and a career high-tying 18 boards to help the Pistons win for the first time in four road contests. Brandon Jennings added 11 points and nine assists.
“When you’re on the road, teams are going to make pushes,” said Smith, averaging just 12.7 points in nine career road games against the Lakers. “We didn’t get rattled. We came down and executed our plays and we did that pretty much all night. That’s what we have to keep doing from here on out.”
Smith and company will try to slow down Lakers forward Jordan Hill, who is averaging 17.0 points on 58.1 percent shooting and 10.3 boards over three games since moving into the starting lineup.
Despite Friday’s win, the Pistons are 2-38 in their last 40 road games against Western Conference foes.