for this game

Lakers continue road trip at short-handed Pistons

Mar 25, 2009 - 11:21 PM By Dan Pieringer Stats Writer

LA Lakers (56-14) at Detroit (34-36) 7:30 p.m. EDT

AUBURN HILLS, Michigan (AP) -- Armed with a big lead early in their last game, the Los Angeles Lakers emptied their bench and put their depth on display.

The injury-depleted Detroit Pistons haven't had many chances to do that lately.

The Lakers look to take advantage of the Pistons' ongoing injury woes and win at The Palace for the first time in more than seven years Thursday night.

Los Angeles (56-14) has the best record in the Western Conference, due largely to an MVP-caliber season from Kobe Bryant and the consistent contributions of fellow All-Star Pau Gasol.

The Lakers, though, also boast solid role players throughout their lineup, as evidenced by the balanced production they got in Tuesday night's 107-89 win at Oklahoma City - their sixth in seven games. Bryant and Gasol helped build a 17-point lead after one quarter and six Lakers scored in double figures as the team used all 12 active players.

Josh Powell had 14 points and Luke Walton added 11 to lead the reserves, who have helped ease the burden on the team's star players as the postseason approaches.

"I just think towards the end of the season we have to take each one of these games and start thinking about the playoffs and gearing ourselves towards that," Powell said. "Every game is important, and we're just trying to do what we can do to sustain the effort."

The Lakers' depth could be particularly valuable against the struggling Pistons (34-36), who have lost five of six while dealing with injuries to three of their starters.

Allen Iverson is sidelined indefinitely with a sore back that has kept him out of 14 straight games, Richard Hamilton has a nagging groin injury that's forced him out of the last five and Rasheed Wallace has sat out eight in a row with a strained left calf.

Iverson isn't expected back soon, and the statuses of Hamilton and Wallace for Thursday's game are uncertain.

Without all three players Tuesday night, Tayshaun Prince and Will Bynum scored 20 points apiece, but Detroit couldn't keep up with Chicago in the second half of a 99-91 road loss.

"We really need those guys back," said Prince, averaging 18.7 points but shooting 43.1 percent over his last nine games. "But at the same time, while they're not here, we've got to figure out a way in the situation we have. We almost have to play perfect basketball to come out with a win."

Detroit is 13-25 since a season-high seven-game winning streak from December 23-January 4.

"We need to stay the course and try to control what we can control," coach Michael Curry said.

The Pistons have controlled their home court against the Lakers lately, winning nine straight meetings at The Palace since a 121-92 loss January 8, 2002. That streak that includes three victories during the 2004 finals, won by the Pistons in five games.

Bryant has played in eight of those losses in Detroit, averaging 23.9 points but shooting 37.7 percent from the field.

Bryant had 29 points but shot 12-for-30 in the Lakers' first meeting with the Pistons this season November 14. Wallace and Iverson scored 25 apiece and Prince added 18 as Detroit won 106-95 in Los Angeles.