Jordan Hill barely played for coach Mike D’Antoni when they were together with the New York Knicks four years ago, and he started this season on D’Antoni’s bench again with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Hill has quickly made it impossible for D’Antoni to keep him off the court while the Lakers chase wins without Kobe Bryant.
Hill had career highs of 24 points and 17 rebounds, and Jodie Meeks and Nick Young scored 19 points apiece in the Lakers’ 114-99 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
Steve Blake had nine points and 16 assists for the Lakers, who made a late surge for just their second victory in six games. Los Angeles scored 16 consecutive points in a rally spanning the third and fourth quarters, holding Detroit without a field goal for more than five minutes.
Hill extended his impressive start to the season with another high-energy effort down low. Five days after moving into the starting lineup and promptly hitting his career high with 21 points against New Orleans, Hill surpassed that mark and his previous best rebounding game with relentless work against the Pistons’ imposing front line.
"I get more confidence every time I step on the floor," said Hill, who washed out in New York and Houston before hitting his NBA stride with the Lakers over the past two seasons.
"We don’t have Steve Nash. We don’t have Kobe. We’ve got guys that we know have to step up. We’re banding together as a team."
Los Angeles scored the final 10 points of the third quarter, taking a 79-71 lead into the fourth on consecutive 3-pointers by Young and a buzzer-beating turnaround jumper by Jordan Farmar. Strong playmaking by Blake and Farmar catalyzed the rally, which continued with the first six points of the fourth.
"It’s going to take that type of effort to win games," said Pau Gasol, who had 12 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. "We need everybody to chip in and play well."
Detroit missed six field-goal attempts and three free throws during the Lakers’ rally. Los Angeles stretched its lead to 106-87 on Meeks’ 3-pointer with 3:26 to play, building a lead too big to be threatened by Brandon Jennings’ four consecutive 3-pointers late.
D’Antoni began the season with Shawne Williams — another former New York forward — in the lineup alongside Gasol. Hill took over the starting spot, but he also excels when the Lakers go small, using Hill in Gasol’s place as their nominal center.
"He’s playing as hard as he can play," D’Antoni said. "He’s got talent, and he’s getting better. … I think he’s just more confident and more everything — and more minutes."
Jennings scored 23 points and Andre Drummond had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Pistons, who have lost five of six. Greg Monroe had 17 points and seven rebounds for Detroit, which has lost 38 of its past 40 road games against Western Conference teams.
Josh Smith scored 18 for the Pistons, who went 1-3 on their four-game West Coast road swing. Playing without injured guards Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups, Detroit got 16 points off the bench from Rodney Stuckey, but struggled offensively midway through the second half of an otherwise even game.
"We knew going into the game that they would spread the floor with the 3-point shooting," Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks said. "They got some pick-and-rolls that had some guys diving to the rim, and that opened up the 3-point shooting. We had some chances to score and missed some easy shots and some foul shots, and they were able to extend their lead."
Detroit made more than 62 percent of its shots and led for most of an uneventful first half that was punctuated by Jennings’ lob pass off the backboard to Drummond for a rim-shaking dunk late in the second quarter.
"It was like playing against a clone of myself," Drummond said of his matchup with Hill. "I stopped moving, and he got the offensive rebounds because he was constantly moving and grinding the whole game. He runs around and plays hard. He played a hell of a game."
After playing 12 games in 20 days to open the regular season, the Lakers get the next four days off to recover. They’ll probably practice with Bryant, who returned Saturday for his first workout with his teammates since tearing his Achilles tendon in April.
Bryant still hasn’t given a timetable for his return to the court. D’Antoni again advised patience Sunday, saying the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history still will miss "a bunch" more games, likely not returning before Thanksgiving.
The Lakers also don’t know when Nash will return from nerve root irritation, although the two-time MVP point guard will be examined this week.
NOTES: Billups missed his second straight game with knee tendinitis. Bynum sat out with a strained hamstring. … Both teams wore alternate jerseys, with the Lakers in their Sunday whites and the Pistons in their blue "Motor City" jerseys. … Pistons owner Tom Gores watched the game from a seat next to the Detroit bench. Gores, a private equity investor, lives and works in Beverly Hills.