Despite the efforts of rising star Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons have fallen on difficult times since getting off to one of the NBA's more surprising starts.
They would seem to have an opportune matchup to close out a challenging trip on a positive note, though nothing has come easy against the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the second of a Staples Center back-to-back, Drummond seeks a 10th straight double-double Sunday night when the Pistons try to beat the reeling Lakers for the first time in seven meetings.
Detroit looked like one of the league's up-and-coming teams after wins at Phoenix and Portland to open a six-game road swing gave it a 5-1 record. However, things haven't gone as smoothly in losses to Golden State, Sacramento and the Los Angeles Clippers.
"We've dropped three in a row, man," guard Reggie Jackson told the team's official website. "Starting to get normal. We've got to just find a way to get a win."
Since allowing 92.2 points per game in their first five, the Pistons (5-4) have surrendered an average of 103.5 on 49.4 percent shooting in their previous four. They couldn't hold on to a 17-point lead Saturday in a 101-96 loss to the Clippers at Staples.
"I felt like we had control and just didn't finish it," added Jackson, who is averaging a team-high 21.9 points. "We've got to find a way as a team to get stops."
Drummond continued his historic start with 18 points and 19 rebounds. The fourth-year center is scoring 18.7 per game to go along with a league-best 19.2 boards. His nine straight double-doubles mark the Pistons' longest season-opening streak dating to 1985-86 and the league's longest point-rebound opening run since Zach Randolph (11) in 2012-13.
Behind its double-double machine, Detroit ranks in the NBA's top five with a plus-6.1 rebounding margin. That stat doesn't bode well for the Lakers, who sit near the bottom at minus-5.2, nor does Drummond's previous game against them at Staples. He had 14 points and 21 boards March 10, tough the Pistons lost 93-85.
Detroit appears poised to get back on track against a Lakers (1-8) team trying to avoid matching its worst start set last season. The Pistons, though, have lost 11 of the past 12 meetings after dropping both matchups in 2014-15 when Los Angeles finished 21-61.
The Lakers had a season-low point total, shot a season-worst 33.0 percent and committed a season-high 22 turnovers in Friday's 90-82 loss at Dallas. Since averaging 106.2 points in their first five games, they've scored just 91.0 while dropping the last four of a five-game trip.
"We felt we should have won three of the five," coach Byron Scott said.
Jordan Clarkson had a team-high 21 points and Kobe Bryant added 19 on 7-of-15 shooting after missing the previous two games because of a back injury. The 17-time All-Star broke out of his horrendous slump after shooting 18 for 61 (29.5 percent) over his prior four.
"He's Kobe Bryant," Scott said. "The first five or six minutes, I was sitting there thinking I can't believe this guy was sick the other day, back was hurting a couple days ago."
Bryant had 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting in a 106-96 win at Detroit on Dec. 2 which marked the only time he's been able to play over the last four meetings.