Pistons 103, Lakers 81

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—As Rasheed Wallace was making 3-pointers and grabbing rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers, he could hardly believe he was playing the same team Detroit defeated in the NBA Finals.

Wallace had 23 points and a season-high 15 rebounds and Tayshaun Prince scored 25 points as the Pistons got off to a strong start and routed the Lakers 103-81 Thursday night in their first meeting since last June.

“There’s no comparison,” Wallace said. “It’s two different teams—just same uniforms.”

However, the result was familiar—a thorough thrashing by Detroit.

The Pistons looked a lot like the team that disposed of Los Angeles in five games while winning by an average margin of 13 points. The Lakers bear almost no resemblance to their predecessors from last season.

Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Phil Jackson are gone, and Kobe Bryant is out, too, with a sprained ankle.

“They are really decimated right now without Vlade (Divac) and Devean George and Kobe,” Pistons coach Larry Brown said. “We were fortunate to catch them when we did, but we played very well.”

The Pistons moved a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the Central Division standings with their sixth win in seven games. They led by 16 points about 4 minutes into a game that was never in doubt.

Los Angeles is 1-4 under interim coach Frank Hamblen, who replaced Rudy Tomjanovich when he suddenly resigned, and is 6-8 since Bryant went down with a sprained ankle.

“We’re looking for something that we can hang our hats on consistently, but we can’t find one,” Hamblen said. “It hurts us to have to search for something every night.”

Lamar Odom led the Lakers with 17 points and Caron Butler had 12. In his first game against his former team, Lakers guard Chucky Atkins scored just three points—10 below his average—on 1-of-7 shooting.

“The Pistons played like we want to play,” Atkins said. “They play as a team, and they outplayed us in every aspect of the game.”

Bryant wouldn’t guess when he’ll return, but said he plans on running during Saturday’s practice after resting his ankle for a few days.

“It’s tough to say because right now it’s sore, sometimes it feels good, but with bad ankle sprains, you never know,” said Bryant, who was booed each time he was shown on the videoboard above the court.

Detroit’s Chauncey Billups had 15 points and a season-high 11 assists, Ben Wallace grabbed 15 rebounds, Richard Hamilton scored 11 and the Pistons had a season-high 30 assists.

Not only are the Pistons clearly a better team than the Lakers, they were also much more rested. Detroit had a game for just the second time in eight days while the Lakers played their fourth in five nights.

“We were fresher, no doubt,” Prince said.

Detroit showed it, jumping out to an 18-2 lead as the Lakers had more turnovers (two) than field goals (one) and led by 18 after the first quarter, outrebounding them 22-11.

“We had 30 points in the first quarter shooting 37 percent, so that shows how we dominated the boards and did everything else well,” Brown said.

The Pistons were ahead by as much as 26 in the second quarter and 27 in the third before coasting with reserves in the final quarter.

“The Lakers have been down in a lot of games recently, but they’ve come back to at least make it close,” Prince said. “We didn’t want to let them do that.”

Notes

Detroit’s Lindsey Hunter (flu) missed his second straight game and Darvin Ham (right calf strain) did not play. … Prince, who was a point short of his career high, outscored the Lakers 15-14 in the first quarter … The Pistons are 17-7 at home and the Lakers are 8-13 on the road. … Atkins was dealt to Boston last year in the three-team trade for Rasheed Wallace. … Divac (lower back surgery) and George (ankle surgery) are both on the injured list.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 LA Lakers
L. Odom L. Odom
6-13,  17 Pts
9 Rebs, 4 Assists
 Detroit
R. Wallace R. Wallace
10-18,  23 Pts
15 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists