Detroit Pistons youth movement pushes Los Angeles Lakers to the brink

Detroit Pistons Sekou Doumbouya against Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Sekou Doumbouya against Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Pistons started Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood against Los Angeles Lakers LeBron James and Anthony Davis and nearly won.

The Detroit Pistons answer for playing LeBron James and Anthony Davis was the youngest player in the NBA and a young forward who earned his first NBA rotational role on a sub-.500 team.

But nobody told Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood they weren’t supposed to hang with the best team the Western Conference has to offer at the historic Staples Center.

Detroit (13-24) lost to the Lakers 106-99 on Sunday, dropping its fourth game on the road trip (1-4) and 10th game in the last 13. But those facts are marginal with the Pistons battling for 48 minutes with a lengthy injury list and on the second night of a back-to-back.

With the likes of Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard, Markieff Morris and Khyri Thomas out, Dwane Casey opted to give Doumbouya a third straight start along side Wood, Andre Drummond, Tony Snell and Tim Frazier. But the Pistons were aggressive despite a first quarter where they easily could have shied away.

The Lakers (29-7) made their presence known in the paint, blocking 20 shots in total – Davis had eight, JaVale McGee swatted six shots and Dwight Howard blocked five – for the first time the NBA has seen that since 2001. While 40.8% of the Pistons misses were as a result of blocked shots, and they only made 29 field goals on 37.2% shooting, Detroit stayed aggressive to draw 35 free throw attempts.

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James and Davis combined to average 52.6 points per game this season but on Sunday were held to 21 and 24, respectively. While Drummond wasn’t effective on the offensive end (12 points on 2 of 13), his strength and ability to protect the paint was necessary against the Lakers length and deter them from driving. Drummond blocked four shots and secured 18 rebounds.

Doumbouya scored 11 points, his third straight game in double figures, before fouling out late fighting through a screen. He blocked Davis in the fourth quarter and grabbed five rebounds. His teammates took note of defending James.

"“He did a phenomenal job and played hard with energy,” Wood said. “He was physical with LeBron and forced him to take some take some tough shots and long fadeaways. He’s been playing great for us; he just has to keep it up.”"

Doumbouya, who turned 19 two weeks ago, has had an eventful week. First he drew a start against Kawhi Leonard, then Draymond Green and James in a span of four days. He had a double-double in the first two games of that stretch.

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Wood scored 11 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk scored 14 points with three steals in his first visit to the Lakers’ homecourt since they traded him to Detroit last season.

Derrick Rose poured in 28 points on 8-of-19 shooting and hitting all 10 free throw attempts. Langston Galloway scored 13 points on 5 of 7, including three three’s, to go with five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Los Angeles block party wasn’t enough to deter the Pistons from driving hard towards the rim and taking on contact. It’s an encouraging sight for a team that was third in 3-point percentage entering Sunday’s games.

After a 32-point outburst to open the second half, the Pistons led 79-75. But the Lakers answered with a 15-point run to build a 90-79 lead in the opening 4:18 of the fourth quarter. Detroit went on a 9-0 spurt to pull within two with 5:52 left.

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Detroit took a 92-91 lead briefly with 4:51 left before the Lakers reclaimed the lead for good. Rose hit a triple with 1:52 left to pull the Pistons within 98-97 but Davis responded on the next possession and followed that up with a layup to push the lead back to 103-97.