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OFF THE PLATE: NOVEMBER 2008

Detroit Pistons: The first to defeat the 2008 Lakers

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(Nov. 15, 2008)—If the city of Detroit had not suffered a blow this week politically—thanks to the Washington, D.C. banter over relief funding for the Big Three automakers—I'd be fit to be tied over tonight's Laker loss to the Pistons (106-95). Not that I'm happy about the Lakers losing, but being on the "losing" side for quite a few of my teams right now, I'm willing to be happy for the good people of Detroit as they enjoy this big victory. Especially after the Chauncey Billups trade.

Besides, Allen Iverson said it best in his post-game interview. To paraphrase: "The Lakers were going to lose at some point. It's not like they were going to go undefeated for all 82 games." Iverson's perspective was impressive, making it clear his number one goal was to come out and help his team win with aggressive offense and smart defense.

And so he did. And so they did, on the Lakers' home court.

With Iverson starting to find his way with his new team, alongside an experienced roster that includes Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton, the Pistons dominated for most of the game.

And regardless of the Lakers' previous 7-0 record and obvious improvement on both sides of the court and throughout the bench, their coming unglued against a strong Pistons performance seemed to prompt post-traumatic-stress syndrome.

While making 42% of their attempted field goals, with the Pistons responsible for 35 defensive rebounds (Wallace responsible for 12), Pau Gasol and Jordan Farmar—two of the Lakers emerging stars, but only two from a ripping starting lineup and a deep bench—something felt very Game 1 of the Lakers-Celtics 2007 Finals. Remember, the game where Paul Pierce came back into the game, apparently with a severe knee-injury, causing the young Laker team to be emotionally dismantled for the rest of the championship series?

With cold shots and the likes of Gasol and Sasha Vujacic appearing tense, the ESPN sports announcers spoke with a defeatist attitude when referring to what felt like an infallible team before tonight. All the while, the Pistons hardly broke a sweat.

Okay, so the Laker record is now 7-1. Perhaps it was believing their own press that caused them to stumble against Detroit, losing their sense of "in the moment" Zen-master Phil no doubt continues to instill in them. Or maybe it was Iverson feeling like it was all starting to click. Or maybe the press (myself included) is making too much of this loss and Iverson was the only one speaking with sound judgment on the subject tonight.

Afterall, there's no comparison between this year's team and last. And I'm not talking about the roster changes, I'm talking about the mindset of the players who remain. If Doc Rivers emphasized the importance of strong defense to help the Celtics win the 2007 championship, the Lakers have no doubt shown they're ready to answer back. As Kobe Bryant said, the loss against their biggest rivals in the league was something they had to live with all summer (and this comment came after he helped the Dream Team win Olympic gold).

If anyone's suffering from amnesia over the magnitude the Lakers demonstrated in games one through seven, let's hope they're the first to shake it off. And something tells me, they're already over it.

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