The Lakers were blocking shots at a historic rate Sunday night, even prompting Dwight Howard to do the finger wag that Dikembe Mutumbo made famous.
The Lakers had 20 blocked shots, one shy of their team record, using that defensive weapon to hold off the Detroit Pistons 106-99 at Staples Center.
Anthony Davis led the way with eight blocks to go along with 24 points and 11 rebounds. JaVale McGee had six blocks, Howard five and Avery Bradley one before he exited with a right ankle sprain.
“We want to protect the paint as much as possible,” Davis said. “If teams are going to beat us, make sure they beat us from the outside.”
The Lakers are the first team to block 20 shots since the Toronto Raptors did it Nov. 7, 2001. It was the second-best total in Lakers history; they had 21 blocks against Denver in April 1982.
Davis and McGee are just the third pair of teammates in NBA history with at least six blocks each, a feat previously accomplished by Dirk Nowitzki and Erik Dampier for Dallas on Jan. 29, 2005.
Almost overlooked was that LeBron James had a triple-double with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists — his ninth of the season and 90th of his career. But even James praised all the blocked shots by his teammates.
“It’s just an unbelievable feat, a remarkable feat,” James said. “Dwight, JaVale and AD, they just make it easy on us. They make it easy on us and we try to contain a lot of these small, quick guards, a lot of these rim attackers. To know that you have that safety net behind you with JaVale, Dwight and AD, it’s a heck of a luxury.”
When Howard blocked Detroit center Andre Drummond in the fourth quarter, the Lakers center wagged his finger. Howard’s teammates laughed and smiled.
“He’s a great shot-blocker,” Davis said. “I told him he had to be a little bit more original. He’s got to come up with his own thing. But that just goes back to protecting the paint. He was one of the guys who did that for us.”
The Lakers had given up 68 points in the paint Friday against New Orleans. They wanted to change that course against the Pistons.
“We’re not happy with giving up 68 points in the paint against the Pelicans. That was sort of the theme of our film session yesterday,” coach Frank Vogel said. “Those guys took a lot of pride in protecting our rim.”
Still, the Lakers blew a late 11-point lead and needed Davis to score 11 points over the final 3:40, including a three-pointer with 1:28 left for a four-point lead, to remain undefeated against teams with losing records. Alex Caruso, who missed Friday’s game with tightness in his right calf, had 13 points off the bench.
One of the biggest highlights of the first half came in the first quarter when McGee received a pass from James with the shot clock winding down and drilled a three-pointer — making him two for two this season — to the delight of the crowd and his teammates.
The Lakers had two guards go down in the second quarter, but only Bradley was unable to return.
Bradley had stolen the ball and then turned it over driving to the basket. As he jumped around, Bradley rolled his ankle and had to be helped to the locker room.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rolled his left ankle on a drive, went to the locker room, got the ankle retaped and returned to play in the second half in place of Bradley, who already missed a month this season with a hairline fracture in his right leg. The Lakers said X-rays on Bradley’s ankle were negative.
“Hopefully he’s not too bad,” Vogel said. “He felt like he could come back, but he was still limping. So we’ll just see how he responds overnight and I’m sure we’ll get more testing on it tomorrow.”
Derrick Rose scored 28 points and former Laker Svi Mykhailiuk had 14 — one off his career high — for the Pistons. Drummond had 12 points on two-for-13 shooting and 18 rebounds before fouling out. Blake Griffin missed his fourth straight game with knee soreness.