After losing the opener of a six-game road trip in Chicago on Tuesday, the Lakers were trying to bounce back at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where they had won nine straight visits since December 20, 1991. They also had won nine consecutive overall meetings with the Pistons dating to February 18, 1997.
“We’ve just been really looking forward to this game,” Billups said. “The whole city has been looking forward to this, all the fans. We knew how big this game was and how much it meant. We stepped up to the challenge. It’s a huge win for the city, for the fans, for us. It’s a huge confidence booster.”
Los Angeles had an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but Detroit scored 31 points in the second period and dominated the game’s final 14 minutes.
The teams were tied at 68-68 late in the third quarter before the Pistons exploded with an 18-3 run. Billups scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and capped the burst with a layup for an 86-71 cushion.
Billups scored 14 points in the final quarter and Okur added 10 as Detroit outscored Los Angeles, 37-19.
“Too much Billups tonight,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He made me want to throw up. We just didn’t help our teammates out at all on high screen rolls and he was able to break through and really create a big game for himself and for the team.”
Ben Wallace collected 10 points and 21 rebounds for Detroit, which has won three straight following a season-high seven-game losing streak.
“I said all along if we come out and play with that type of energy, that type of intensity, that I know this team is capable of playing with, I know we can play with anybody,” Wallace said. “We’re capable of beating anybody on any given day.”
Okur made 8-of-10 shots from the floor, including 2-of-3 3-pointers, and was 4-of-4 from the line. He also did a solid job of defending O’Neal, who bounced back from Tuesday’s sub-par performance.
O’Neal had just 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting against Chicago. He responded with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“They played a little bit better and we made a lot of silly mistakes,” he said. “They played a little bit harder down the stretch than we did. We still had a couple of chances to win but Detroit got all the loose balls and played with a lot more energy.”
“We had a defensive scheme that we put together,” Wallace said. “We wanted to force them to take tough shots. We wanted to keep a body on Shaq. We came out and we did that. Every time he turned and looked at the basket he had two, three guys staring at his face, so kind of made it hard for him.”
Detroit’s league-leading defense also did a stellar job on Kobe Bryant, who was held to 21 points on just 9-of-23 shooting and attempted only one free throw.
“It’s hard coming up with a game plan for how to defend these guys,” Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’s very hard to stop Kobe and Shaq. I thought we did a great job as a team trying to deal with those guys.”
“I don’t think it was the defense that did it to Kobe,” Jackson said. “He made mistakes, poor decisions shooting the ball and this was not one of Kobe’s great games after the first quarter.”
Billups made 12-of-20 shots, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, and reserve Corliss Williamson scored 17 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Detroit shot 52 percent (39-of-76) and got 50 points from its bench.
“Their bench was too strong for us tonight,” Jackson said. “It was Okur and Williamson that made the difference in the ballgame.”
Los Angeles, which has lost consecutive games for the first time since February 14-16, shot just 44 percent (36-of-81) and committed 21 turnovers, leading to 28 points for Detroit.
Bryant scored 14 points in the first quarter as the Lakers jumped out to a 29-18 lead. Billups, Williamson and Okur each scored eight points in the second for the Pistons, who had a 49-45 halftime edge.