Saturday, September 23, 2023
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NBA Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (8-9) at Detroit Pistons (4-11)

LeBron James’ return to action on Friday didn’t make the Los Angeles Lakers’ troubles disappear.

James played for the first time since Nov. 2 and has recovered from an abdominal strain. The Lakers were blown out by Boston 130-108 and dropped a game below to .500. They’ll look to even their record at Detroit on Sunday, when James gets an introduction to Pistons No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.

James had 23 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, but his team allowed a season-high in points to the Celtics.

There’s no level of panic, but there should be some sense of urgency any time we take the floor,” James said.

His status for Sunday’s game will be determined by how he feels this weekend after playing 32 minutes.

“Physically I felt OK and good enough to know that I can trust my body and get out and play (Friday),” James said. “So I’m more looking forward to seeing how I’m feeling (Saturday) when I wake up. That is the telltale sign if I’m moving in the right direction with my injury.”

The Lakers have lost six of their last nine games, including three straight. Only one of those victories came in regulation.

“We can go out and compete every night, but I don’t think it’s our offense. I think it’s our defense, honestly,” Anthony Davis said. “We’ve just got to do a better job on the defensive end.”

James vows that the Lakers won’t be floundering for very long.

“It’s never as bad as it may seem, and it’s never as good as it may feel,” James said. “So I stay even-keeled throughout the whole journey. …. It’s a process for us. And I’ve always felt comfortable when things are uncomfortable, so I look forward to the process of us trying to get better. And us getting better. Not trying. We will get better.”

The Pistons have yet to put together back-to-back victories this season. They defeated Indiana on Wednesday, then lost to a depleted Golden State team 105-102 on Friday.

The Warriors played without the league’s leading scorer, Stephen Curry, and several other regulars due to minor ailments. Detroit still fell behind by 16 entering the fourth quarter and its late rally came up short. The Pistons missed two potentially tying 3-point attempts in the closing seconds.

“We’re all a little frustrated,” Cunningham said. “We all want to compete; we all want to win. More than anything, you want to leave the arena at the end of the night with a win. We got a win, came back and lost. We got a win, came back and lost. That’s frustrating. Now, we’re trying to take that next step of being consistent … and string some wins together.”

The Pistons could be perilously thin in the frontcourt against a team loaded with size on Sunday. Starting center Isaiah Stewart rolled his right ankle on Friday and missed most of the second half. His backup, Kelly Olynyk, suffered a knee injury last week that will sideline him for at least six weeks.

“That’s always uncomfortable to see,” Cunningham said. “Isaiah does so much for us. He brings so much energy, so much passion. With him going down, we have to try to bring it out of ourselves to match what he usually brings for us. It’s tough to do.”

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