AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The way Pau Gasol has been playing lately, he might be too valuable for the Los Angeles Lakers to trade him.
Starting once again at center in place of injured All-Star Dwight Howard, Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds as the Lakers defeated the Detroit Pistons, 98-97, at The Palace on Sunday.
The Lakers (22-26) gave away an 18-point, second-half lead but survived when the Pistons (18-30) missed two shots in the final 3.8 seconds.
Gasol had 22 points and 12 rebounds against Minnesota on Friday when the Lakers snapped their eight-game road losing streak. The long-time All-Star became the subject of trade rumors after his role was reduced and he lost his starting job.
"It's good, it's refreshing for me," he said. "It's satisfying for sure to play this kind of role again, to have the kind of role on this team that I've had for a while."
Howard missed the game despite receiving platelet-rich plasma treatment this weekend on his ailing right shoulder. Once Howard returns, Gasol anticipates that he will go back to the bench
Coach Mike D'Antoni admits it's tough to keep Gasol off the court when he's playing like this.
"He's so skilled," D'Antoni said. "He puts a lot of pressure on the other team's defense because he passes the ball so well. He's playing well."
So is Earl Clark, who replaced Gasol in the lineup last month at power forward. Clark scored 15 of his 17 points before halftime.
"With the time that I'm getting, it's only natural that you get comfortable," Clark said. "Your teammates tell you what you need to do before the game.
"I'm just fitting into my role and it feels good to have a role on this team."
Kobe Bryant had 18 points and five assists, including a decisive three-point play with 1:09 remaining. He passed Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the all-time field goals list and has 10,757 for his career.
Greg Monroe led the Pistons (18-30) with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Will Bynum added 18 points and 10 assists. Bynum missed a potential go-ahead layup in the closing seconds and Andre Drummond failed to convert an inbounded lob pass from Kyle Singler in the final second.
"It's tough," Bynum said of his late miss. "I work so hard and I thrive to be in situations like that. To be in there and not deliver is kind of crushing sometimes, especially when my teammates and coaching staff trust me to make the right decisions."
The Pistons trailed, 72-54, in the third quarter, but Charlie Villanueva's 3-pointer tied it, 91-91, with 4:36 remaining.
"All of a sudden, we changed the game," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. "We started moving the ball. We started putting more energy and effort into the game."
Baskets by Gasol and Steve Nash put the Lakers back on top, but Drummond's dunk and Villanueva putback evened the score again.
Bryant responded with his three-point play to give the Lakers a 98-95 edge. Bynum's layup cut it to one. When Clark missed two free throws, the Pistons had the ball back with 15.3 seconds remaining, but Bynum's running bank attempt spun off the rim.
Steve Nash then surprisingly missed two free throws, giving Detroit one last chance, but Drummond couldn't get around Gasol to corral Singler's lob cleanly.
Metta World Peace of the Lakers created some tension late in the half with a flagrant foul against Brandon Knight. They got tangled up under the basket and World Peace wrapped his arm around the back of Knight's neck.
World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, precipitated the infamous 2004 Palace brawl by running into the stands and attacking a fan.
NOTES: The Lakers are 2-1 on their seven-game trip. They don't play another home game until Feb. 12. ... Los Angeles have won seven of their last eight against the Pistons. .... Cpach Mike D'Antoni hopes Howard, who has a torn labrum, can play sometime this week. "The pain is not going to go away," D'Antoni said. "It's a little bit of a tear and if it gets totally bad, we'll have to do something (surgically). But the way it is right now, he'll just have to deal with it." ... Coach Lawrence Frank of the Pistons traded texts with Bill Parcells on Saturday night after Parcells was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Frank has known Parcells since he was a team manager at Indiana under coach Bob Knight, another close friend of Parcells. "I thought it was a year overdue, but I know how honored he is to be part of such an esteemed group," Frank said. "He's one of the all-time great coaches." ... Point guard Jose Calderon, acquired by Detroit from the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, was ineligible to play because of visa issues. The Pistons hope the situation is resolved before they play at the New York Knicks on Monday night.