Detroit Pistons aren’t ready for games like this

After last night’s 106-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, Jonas Jerebko went up to Kobe Bryant and congratulated him. Bryant look up, saw who it was, looked the rookie in the eye and said, “Good game.”

It’s funny, but I think Kobe was serious.

Last night’s game turned for the worse when Jerebko began guarding Kobe Bryant. Bryant, who missed his first four shots, looked at the rookie and seemed to think, “He’s guarding me?”

All of a sudden, Kobe’s nagging groin injury and his cold shooting stroke disappeared. Bryant scored 40 points and added five rebounds, five assists and three steals. He controlled the game, and there was nothing the Pistons could do about it.

That’s OK. Not many teams can do anything to slow Kobe.

But it was encouraging the Pistons kept playing hard – including Jerebko more than any other starter.

The Lakers built a 28-point lead midway through the third quarter, and Detroit cut it to seven with 1:54 left. Big leads in the NBA naturally shrink because the winning team becomes complacent.

But cutting it that much and forcing the Lakers to bring Kobe Brant back into the game is a little more than the typical swing back to the losing team. So, give credit to the guys out there in the fourth quarter:

  • Jerebko (the only starter with a positive plus/minus rating: +3)
  • Jason Maxiell (13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks)
  • Will Bynum (24 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and a block)
  • DaJuan Summers (team-best +12 rating)
  • Chris Wilcox (three rebounds in six minutes)
  • Kwame Brown (nine points, five rebounds and three beautiful assists)

But – and there’s a huge but – the Pistons aren’t ready for games like this: road games against the league’s better teams. And they’re certainly not ready for this road trip (games at Portland, Utah and Phoenix in the next five days).

Playing hard is nice, and I think it means something when a player with Kobe’s basketball IQ notices it. But the Lakers exposed some big problems Detroit has.

The Pistons don’t know how to run.

Right around the time Kobe got hot, the Lakers started pushing the ball. This was particularly frustrating because that’s not how Kobe scored.

Either, Kobe scored in the halfcourt or the Lakers ran. And when they ran, Detroit looked lost. The Pistons had no idea how to defend the fastbreak, and the disarray spread to their offense.

The Pistons are now 3-0 in their three games with the slowest pace and 1-5 in their games with the fastest pace.

They don’t rebound well.

Both teams entered the game in the bottom half of the league in rebounding rate. But the Lakers outrebounded Detroit, 44-32.

They don’t have a reliable big man.

Andrew Bynum crushed the Pistons for 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Lakers could just lob the ball into the post, and it was nearly an automatic two points.

This was a night where Ben Wallace looked 35. He didn’t have the legs to challenge the entry pass or the energy to push Bynum around. Several times, the 7-foot Bynum commanded such a powerful position in the post, I couldn’t even see the 6-foot-9 Wallace behind him.

But Wallace didn’t get any help, either. The Pistons had no offensive threat in the post. That allowed Bynum to take half the game off and have even more energy to pound Wallace on offense.

Some of these issues will go away when Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince return. Others won’t.

For now, the Pistons should just hope they get back to Detroit in once piece.

Advanced statistics

Number in parentheses represent where the game’s rating would rank among NBA teams’ season totals.

Offensive rating: 102.3 (25th)

Defensive rating: 116.6 (30th)

Pace: 90.9 (25th)