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Lakers end seven-year drought in Detroit

LAKERS 92, DETROIT 77

Kobe Bryant scores 30 points and sparks a 20-0 run at the end of the third quarter.

March 27, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

AUBURN HILLS, MICH. — It wasn't easy, but it's rarely ever simple here.

The Lakers actually won a road game against the Detroit Pistons, almost an occasion to grab the game ball and mount it in the team offices back home.

It had been a little more than seven years since the Lakers last won at the Palace, but they ended an 0-9 skid here by beating back an undermanned Pistons squad, 92-77, on Thursday.

Kobe Bryant was exceptional and the Lakers were as well during a 20-0 run to end the third quarter. Their seven-game trip doesn't look so daunting now that they're 3-0 on it.

In the grander scheme, the Lakers (57-14) stayed within a game of Cleveland (58-13) for the league's best record.

Furthermore, they need only one more victory or a loss by San Antonio (47-24) to clinch home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs.

For starters, the Lakers haven't exactly played well here in recent years.

They've been blown out on numerous occasions and also lost three one-sided games at the Palace in the 2004 Finals.

It got so bad a couple of years ago that ex-Lakers forward Brian Cook purposely dropped his warmup pants into Phil Jackson's lap while checking into a game. (It didn't go over too well for Cook, who was immediately yanked by an irritated Jackson, or the Lakers, who lost that night by 15.)

But Bryant had 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists Thursday to push the Lakers past the Pistons.

"Finally, right?" said veteran guard Derek Fisher, all too familiar with Detroit's dominance of the Lakers.

Fisher had 15 points, five during the third-quarter run that started shortly after former Lakers center Kwame Brown gave the Pistons a 55-50 lead with 6:42 left in the quarter. Detroit wouldn't score again until 33 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The Lakers needed the run to overtake the Pistons, who were winning despite missing three key players because of injuries: Rasheed Wallace (calf), Richard Hamilton (groin) and Allen Iverson (back).

It appeared it would be easy early for the Lakers, who took a 25-12 lead after one quarter, but the Pistons scored the first 17 points of the second quarter, the Lakers not scoring for more than five minutes, and Detroit led by three at halftime.

Jackson will accept the victory, grudgingly, cognizant of the Lakers' past futility against the Pistons.

"I have some Alzheimer's and amnesia, but it's not that bad yet. We know what we've done and we know the types of games we've lost here," he said. "We're not going to take a whole lot from this game. We know they're short-handed and we should win this game because of the talent we have."

The Pistons (34-37) have appeared in six consecutive Eastern Conference finals, but they might not even make the playoffs this season.

Still, reserve guard Will Bynum had his way with the Lakers, setting career highs with 25 points and 11 assists.

Thankfully for the Lakers, Bryant made 10 of 18 shots and started their third-quarter run with a layup. Trevor Ariza followed with a pair of fastbreak dunks, and the Lakers were on their way to a league-best 26-9 road record.

As has become the custom in many road games, Lakers fans began an "M-V-P" chant for Bryant near the end of the game while he completed a three-point play with 2:01 to play in front of a quickly emptying arena.

"We're playing well right now. We've got to get right back to it [tonight]," Bryant said. "We've got to forget about this game right away and focus in on New Jersey."

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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