Lakers top Pistons, finally get 1st win
LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have raised enough championship trophies to realize they really shouldn't be getting excited about any win in the first week of November.
After the Los Angeles Lakers stumbled through the past five weeks without winning any games anywhere, Kobe and Pau figured it's fine to enjoy a small victory.
Dwight Howard scored 28 points, Bryant had 15 points and eight assists, and the Lakers finally got their first victory of the season, 108-79 over the winless Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
"We had to stop the bleeding, and there wasn't a way to do it other than coming out here tonight and getting a solid win," said Gasol, who scored 14 points. "We've got a little bit of tension out of ourselves right now."
Metta World Peace scored 18 points for the Lakers, who went 0-8 in the preseason and started the regular season 0-3 for just the fourth time in franchise history despite adding Howard and Steve Nash over the summer.
But the Lakers' growing worries about coach Mike Brown's new offense and their veteran roster's durability vanished for a night against the struggling Pistons, who never led and never threatened.
"We needed this bad, just to change the mood and give us some of that feel-good feeling," said Steve Blake, who tied his career high with five steals while starting in Nash's place. "Losing games was tough. I guess we did a good job of staying positive, but it feels good, that's for sure."
After their worst start to a season in 34 years, the Lakers occasionally resembled the powerhouse most expected to see this season -- even without Nash, who missed his second game with a small fracture in his leg. Los Angeles took a 28-point lead in the first half and stretched it to 36 points in the third quarter, with Howard dominating the paint and Bryant slipping easily into a playmaking role in the Nash's absence.
Howard excelled in the paint against Greg Monroe, hitting 12 of 14 shots -- most of them right at the rim -- and grabbing seven rebounds with just one foul.
"It's a relief -- more for Mike than anybody else," said Bryant, who appeared to play easily on his sore foot while taking just 10 shots and grabbing seven rebounds.
Brown is aware his offense is getting roasted by fans and critics everywhere from Toluca Lake to TNT's "Inside the NBA," but he's sticking with the motion-based schemes.
"We weren't perfect offensively, but I think everybody -- including us -- got a good taste of what it can be like," Brown said. "We're just barely scratching the surface on where this thing can go. ... Obviously, we needed a win. Every win we get gives us a little more belief on both ends of the floor."
Bryant got all eight of his assists in the first half, and the Lakers' starters played only token minutes in the fourth quarter, giving them valuable rest before Wednesday's trip to Utah. While the Lakers wait a week to learn the severity of Nash's injury, Blake had six assists and six points, while backup Darius Morris also played well with six points.
The Lakers began the regular season by dropping games to Dallas, Portland and the Clippers, but they've only started a season 0-4 once in franchise history -- and that was in 1957, back in Minneapolis. Los Angeles hadn't even started a season 0-3 since 1978 -- but that team won 15 of its next 16 games.
"I don't think anyone over there was panicked that they were 0-3 or that they hadn't won a preseason game," Detroit coach Lawrence Frank said. "They're a very good team. There's a big disparity right now between us and the Lakers. It was total domination."
Jonas Jerebko scored 18 points for Detroit in the second stop on a difficult six-game road trip.
Detroit's five starters all struggled mightily, going a combined 11 for 39 -- including Brandon Knight's 1-for-8 performance. Rodney Stuckey's shooting slump reached three games, with the starting guard going 0 for 6 to drop to 1 for 23 this season.
"We just had no rhythm to the game and no flow," said Tayshaun Prince, who scored nine points. "We knew the Lakers would try to start off quick, being in the position we were in without a win. You let a team shoot that high a percentage in the first quarter, it's always going to be a problem, especially playing against a great team. We're a young team, and we showed it tonight."
The Pistons also might wonder if the NBA's schedule-makers used Apple Maps to plot their trip: Detroit must travel to Denver for a game Tuesday, only to return to California to face the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday before heading back out to Oklahoma City.
NOTES: The Lakers hadn't started 0-3 at home since 1959. ... Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham played on the Pistons' 2004 championship team, which upset the Lakers in the NBA finals. ... Flea, will.i.am, Andy Garcia and Jeremy Sisto attended the game.