Pau Gasol scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and Kobe Bryant added 18 points and five assists, as the Los Angeles Lakers held on for a 98-97 victory over the Detroit Pistons Sunday.
Bryant's three-point play with just over one minute left helped the Lakers pick up their second straight win and fifth victory in their last six tries, despite four missed free throws in the final 16 seconds of the game and two late-second missed opportunities from the Pistons.
Greg Monroe recorded a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds and Will Bynum posted 18 points and dished out 10 helpers for the Pistons, who lost for the third time in their last four games.
L.A. led by as many as 18 (72-54), with 8:00 minutes remaining in the third quarter, but Detroit fought back. Monroe's hook shot, his 20th point of the contest, brought the Pistons all the way back within 78-72 as the quarter came to a close.
It looked like deja vu all over again, as the Lakers extended their lead again, this time to 10 points with 8:36 remaining in the game. The home team kept battling back, and Brandon Knight's monster slam dunk just two minutes later made it 87-86 in favor of the visitors.
As the contest winded down under five minutes, Charlie Villanueva twice tied the game -- the first on a 3-pointer with 4:36 left to play, and the second on a tough lay-in, which made it 95-95 with 2:06 to play.
Two possessions later, Bryant made the Pistons pay, with a three-point play after he was fouled on a driving layup, and the visitors led 98-95 with just over one minute left.
Detroit turned to Bynum, who made a quick basket to bring the Pistons within one, 98-97. Then things got interesting. Earl Clark missed two free throws to potentially seal the game with 16 ticks left and Detroit was still alive.
Bynum got the ball back and drove to the lane for a difficult lay-in, but the ball rattled in-and-out of the rim, thus allowing the Lakers to hold on for the win.
"It's tough," Bynum said about the shot. "I work so hard and I thrive to be in situations like that. To be in there and not deliver is kind of crushing sometimes, especially when my teammates and coaching staff trust me to make the right decisions. It wasn't my night."
Amazingly, the Pistons even had another last-second try, following two rare missed free throws from Steve Nash, but the inbounds pass with 1.2 seconds left was tipped away near the rim.
"These are playoff games for us and I think it feels like it and sometimes weird stuff happens in the playoffs," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Obviously we have to do a better job of protecting leads and play like we played when we get the leads."
After a competitive first quarter which ended with the visitors up 32-27, Monroe's slam just 1 1/2 minutes into the second stanza gave Detroit a 35-34 edge. The Lakers answered with a quick, 13-4 flurry to take a 47-39 lead midway through the quarter. Los Angeles took a 62-51 edge into halftime.
Gasol's presence was noticed, as he helped fill in for Dwight Howard, who missed L.A.'s victory Friday over the Minnesota Timberwolves due to his nagging shoulder injury. Gasol had 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the first half alone.
The Lakers are now 2-3 without Howard in the lineup after the All-Star center missed Friday's game to receive platelet-rich plasma treatments in his right shoulder ... The Lakers have won seven of the last eight meetings versus Detroit ... The Pistons shot 44.6 percent, compared to the Lakers' 47.0 percent shooting effort ... Nash finished with 10 assists and 11 points and Clark added 17 points and 10 boards.