Lakers build big lead behind Kobe in win over Pistons

Kobe Bryant simply took a step forward, rebounded his missed free

throw and easily made a jumper.

The Los Angeles Lakers star said it was luck.

The Detroit Pistons saw it differently.

Bryant scored 28 points and helped the Lakers build a big

lead in a 93-81 victory over Detroit on Sunday night.

Los Angeles closed a trip with a four-game winning streak and

an NBA-best 22-4 record, but Bryant says the defending champions

can improve.

“It’s a great sign,” he said. “We believe we can be better

and we will be better because we push each other.”

Three of Detroit’s best players wore sportcoats: Richard

Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince.

The Lakers, though, didn’t have much sympathy because travel

woes led to them getting to their Detroit-area hotel at 4 a.m.

Sunday after beating the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.

Bryant said he fell asleep at about 6 a.m.

He looked more awake late in the first quarter, when Detroit

allowed him to grab a ball that bounced in the lane after his miss

at the line, setting him up for a shot that gave the Lakers a 22-13

lead.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said. “It’s just luck.”

The Pistons disagreed.

“Those are the little things that end up biting you in the

butt,” Detroit coach John Kuester said.

That wasn’t the only play in which the Lakers played with

more energy.

Los Angeles took the lead with an 11-0 run midway through the

first quarter, started the second ahead by 12, had an 18-point lead

at halftime and a 21-point cushion after three quarters.

“They were the aggressor,” Kuester said. “That’s the bottom

line.”

Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson seemed to be resting Bryant,

Ron Artest and Pau Gasol for the final quarter, but he put the trio

back in with 5-plus minutes left and a 15-point lead.

“We answered the bell for about the first half of the first

round,” Jackson said. “After that, it was one of the our most

poorly played games of the year.

“Even with the lead we had built, we still had to use our

starters down the stretch to finish off the game. We’ve got to be

better than this going forward.”

Bryant likely gave Jackson what he was looking for, hustling

to make a steal a couple minutes later and scoring on a layup.

Detroit pulled within eight points with 1:45 left, but

Jackson called a timeout and Bryant made a basket, the Lakers got a

stop and Gasol hit a layup to make it 93-81.

“I hate the way that game ended,” Lamar Odom said. “Fourth

quarters like that are my pet peeve — we get up by 20 and stop

playing.”

Andrew Bynum scored 16 points, Artest had 14 points and a

season-high nine assists, and Gasol added 13 points and 11 rebounds

for the Lakers.

“Energy is never going to be a problem for that team because

they’ve got so many guys to throw at you that they don’t have to

worry about getting tired,” Detroit’s Chucky Atkins said. “If Kobe

gets tired, they go to Pau Gasol. If he gets tired, they’ve got Ron

Artest, then there is Bynum, and Derek Fisher hits a couple 3s, and

they can bring Lamar Odom off the bench.”

Rodney Stuckey scored 16 points, Swedish rookie Jonas Jerebko

had 15 and rookie reserve Austin Daye added 10 points for the

Pistons, who have lost four straight after winning five in a row.

The Pistons were without Hamilton (right hamstring), Gordon

(left ankle) and Prince (back) because of nagging injuries.

“I thought we were going to beat them,” Kuester insisted. “I

believe in the guys we have dressed.”

Artest’s recent comments about Ben Wallace added intrigue to

the matchup, but it ended up being very uneventful.

Artest said in a Sporting News interview he was still ready

to fight Wallace — the player who shoved him on the play that

started the 2004 brawl with the Pistons, Pacers and fans at The

Palace.

Artest was often booed when he had the ball, but that was the

extent of the jeering while he and Wallace showed no signs of

animosity on the court.

“I don’t have any problem with Ben or anyone here,” Artest

said. “But that was five years ago and I’ve given a lot of quotes

about it. I have to save some.”

Artest was asked if the feud with Wallace was over.

“That’s up to y’all,” he said.

Notes: Bryant was called for a technical early in

the second quarter, arguing about a call that didn’t go his way.

… Larry Foote and Dewayne White of the Lions had front-row seats

at the game, which started less than 2 hours after a loss to

Arizona. … The Pistons had won five straight at home.