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Without Anthony Davis, Lakers go cold late in loss to Pistons

Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright shoots over the defense of Lakers center Marc Gasol.
Detroit Pistons guard Delon Wright shoots over the defense of Lakers center Marc Gasol during the first half on Thursday in Detroit.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

There are nights in the NBA season when all eyes will be on the Lakers, when they need to try to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid in possible NBA Finals previews. There are nights when a historic rivalry with the Boston Celtics will fuel a team.

And then there are nights like Thursday, when the NBA schedule finds you on the floor of a four-win team in a 20-degree town at the end of January, the playoffs an eternity away and the energy from the newness of the season worn off.

What do you need to do to win on those nights?

Well, you’ve got to play better than this.

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The Lakers’ couldn’t capitalize on LeBron James’ hot start, and as the rims tightened, the Lakers’ spirit faded. One night after they almost came back in Philadelphia, they happily went away in Detroit, losing to the Pistons 107-92.

“Sometimes you just have a night where you’re off in a lot of ways,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “And that was us tonight.”

For the third time this season, the Lakers’ Anthony Davis will miss the second game on back-to-back nights, this time because of a bruised right quad.

It’s the first time this season the Lakers have lost consecutive games, with the team trying to figure things out while trying to navigate.

“A lot of our games are like big practices,” James said. “And we have to learn on the fly. … It’s all a learning experience.”

James hit his first seven shots, scoring 20 points in the game’s first 20 minutes before he went ice cold. James scored just two more points on one-for-12 shooting the rest of the game.

“I definitely missed some shots that I know I’m accustomed to making,” James said.

With few exceptions, no one was much better on a night when they needed their depth to show up. Anthony Davis didn’t play because of swelling related to a contusion on his right quad muscle.

With the Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back, the team decided Davis should sit.

The Lakers managed just 14 points in the fourth quarter, missing more than 70% of their shots while the Pistons steadily put the game away. They weren’t much better in the third, though, when they scored just 20 points.

“We just didn’t have a great rhythm that second half in any way. We’ll go back and look at the tape and see where we went wrong. We just didn’t seem to have as much of a defensive disposition,” Vogel said. “That forced us to not get out in the open court. And playing without Anthony, we were just looking to find rhythm with combinations that aren’t used to being out there and we just didn’t find it. And we’ve been pretty good on the road, but tonight was definitely not our night.”

Kyle Kuzma, starting for the injured Davis, scored 22 points, Talen Horton-Tucker had 13 and Dennis Schroder added 10.

Horton-Tucker’s game was one of the lone bright spots.

“My goal is to come in and do kind of what I did today,” Horton-Tucker said. “Anything to help us win.”

Thursday, it wasn’t nearly enough. The Lakers said they know the value of each win, especially in what’s expected to be a tight race in the Western Conference. But after seeing it with his own eyes last year, Kuzma knows that every time the Lakers play, they’re really just rehearsing for the postseason.

“Things happen,” Kuzma said. “You’re not always going to bring your A game.”

Five takeaways from the Lakers’s 107-106 loss to the 76ers in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

And with the Lakers in town, Detroit came close to bringing theirs.

Blake Griffin had 23, one of his best games this season, and Wayne Ellington scored 20 to lead five Pistons in double figures.

The Lakers continue their trip Saturday night against Boston.

“We’ll be fine,” Vogel said. “You have nights like this in a long season. We’ll be fine. We’ll bounce back, not happy. None of us are happy with how we played tonight.”


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