Pistons 93, Lakers 78
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP)—Chris Webber has fit into his new team seamlessly, making passes and shots.
The five-time All-Star still is not satisfied.
The Pistons have won five straight—building a two-game lead for the best record in the Eastern Conference—and are 9-2 with Webber in the starting lineup.
“It’s only going to get better,” Webber said with a grin.
Kobe Bryant agreed, adding the Pistons are playing like champions in part because of Webber.
“He’s a phenomenal passer,” Bryant said. “It’s fun to watch him, unless you are actually trying to stop him. When he was with Sacramento, he drove us crazy with those passes.
“When he comes in the game, you can see all of those guys start licking their chops and cutting even harder to the basket because they know what he will be giving them.”
Bryant had 18 points on 5-of-13 shooting and eight turnovers, one short of his career high.
“They are great defensively and they get a little leeway because of their reputations,” he said. “Great teams earn that leeway. We haven’t played anyone else like that this season.”
Webber, who played a season-high 41 minutes, had his third double-double since signing with the Pistons three weeks ago, and scored at least 12 points for the fifth straight game.
The Pistons built a double-digit lead in the first quarter with crisp ball movement that led to 11 assists on 12 baskets and didn’t have much trouble maintaining the cushion for the rest of the game. They have won eight straight at home against Los Angeles, including three victories in the 2004 finals that were Shaquille O’Neal’s last games with the Lakers.
“We have not played a good game on this floor in year,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. “It’s all about matchups, and they aren’t good for us against Detroit.”
Los Angeles had balanced scoring, but much of it came too late.
The Pistons looked fantastic on offense during the first quarter—when they essentially won the game—and Webber had a lot to do with it.
Without the ball, Webber’s passing has encouraged them to cut through the lane and curl around picks more often and harder than they did in the past.
“You can definitely attribute that to Webber,” said point guard Chauncey Billups, who had nine assists. “It’s a lot of fun. People are getting dunks and a lot of wide-open looks.”
Four different players had assists and Detroit made 60 percent of its shots to help build a 28-17 lead.
Webber had eight points, five rebounds, three assists and no turnovers in the first quarter. Bryant deferred to his teammates until taking and making his first shot, a 3-pointer with 27.5 seconds left in the quarter.
“He was really trying to get guys involved,” Prince said. “The time he was trying to be aggressive, guys were in a great position to help.”
Detroit led 48-36 at halftime and 73-59 after three quarters. The Pistons built their biggest lead, a 20-point cushion in the final quarter and coasted to the victory.
Jackson and reserve Brian Cook had a heated confrontation on the sideline in the second half. “That’s out of character for Brian,” Jackson said. … The last time the Lakers won at the Palace was Jan. 8, 2002. … In the previous meeting this season, the Pistons won 97-83 on Nov. 10 at Los Angeles. … Detroit is 9-8 against the Western Conference and the Lakers are 13-10 against the East. … Webber made his first 3-pointer in 12 games with the Pistons, and his third this season. … Mateen Cleaves, a former Pistons first-round pick and Michigan State star, joined the Bakersfield (Calif.) Jam of the NBA Development League on Thursday.