Pau Gasol and the Los Angeles Lakers began their turnaround at the expense of the Detroit Pistons earlier this month. They'll now try to get over .500 and cap their three-game road swing on a winning note Friday night by completing a sweep of their interconference series.
Struggling to find consistent offense as Kobe Bryant gets closer to returning from his Achilles injury, the Lakers sputtered early in the season, averaging 98.1 points while shooting 42.0 percent. Gasol contributed 13.1 points per game early but shot just 38.9 percent.
Los Angeles (8-8), though, has scored 105.2 points per game in winning four of five, shooting 47.8 percent in that span. Gasol has typified that improved efficiency, averaging 18.8 points and making 52.5 percent of his shots while also averaging 7.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
The veteran Spaniard provided the inside presence in the Lakers' 99-94 win at Brooklyn on Wednesday night, scoring 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Nick Young, though, delivered a career-high 26 points and teamed with Jordan Farmer to hit nine of Los Angeles' 13 shots from 3-point range as the team overcame blowing a 27-point lead to get the victory.
''We weren't doing anything wrong (early in the game),'' Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. ''Everything was going and going, and guys were hitting shots. We just have to understand how we do it and bottle it and keep going.''
Gasol, who has averaged 17.8 points in 22 career games versus the Pistons, has recorded double-doubles in six straight at Detroit.
The Pistons (6-9) know all about offensive inconsistency, failing to get a season-high third straight win Wednesday after they were stifled 99-79 by Chicago. Rodney Stuckey scored 25 off the bench, but Detroit had only 26 second-half points and went scoreless over 10 possessions in a game-deciding 7:08 stretch of the fourth quarter.
Yet coach Maurice Cheeks opted to focus on his team's defense at practice Thursday, and with good reason. The Pistons are last in the league in defending inside the arc - allowing opponents to shoot 51.8 percent - and can be exploited by a savvy veteran like Gasol.
"Just trying to keep the ball out of the paint," Cheeks told the team's official website following practice. "Keep scorers out of the paint. If we could do that, we would be a little bit better defensively.
"I understand Thanksgiving, but I thought we needed a little work and I think it did something for us today."
Stuckey has embraced his role as supersub, averaging a team-best 16.6 points, but has stepped up his play of late. He's scored 20.8 per contest while shooting 56.0 percent from the field and 84.8 percent from the foul line over the last six games.
The Lakers are going for their second straight season sweep of the Pistons after Jordan Hill had career highs of 24 points and 17 rebounds while Steve Blake had a season-best 16 assists in a 114-99 victory Nov. 17.
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- Detroit Pistons
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Pau Gasol