New-look Lakers aim to continue success against Pistons

Luke Walton's decision to go with a younger, less expensive lineup returned early dividends. The awkwardness of the situation will not go away any time soon.

The first-year Los Angeles Lakers coach removed center Timofey Mozgov and forward Luol Deng from the starting five and replaced them with rookie Brandon Ingram and Tarik Black. The new-look Lakers (18-36) romped past the New York Knicks 121-107 at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, ending their 12-game road losing streak.

They'll continue their road trip against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

Ingram had 14 points and seven rebounds while playing 32 minutes on Monday, while Black contributed nine points and 10 rebounds.

That leaves Mozgov and Deng as very expensive subs. Mozgov, who signed a four-year, $64 million contract last summer, never left the bench. Deng, who received a four-year, $72 million deal to leave Miami, played 23 minutes.

"It always comes back to what I think is best for the team," Walton told the Los Angeles Times and other media outlets. "Not only right at this moment, but the future of the team. We try to make our decisions based on that, not on the salaries."

Mozgov didn't expect to be in this position after signing such a lavish contract.

"We just tried to do something better for the team," Mozgov told the Times. "It's hard to tell you right now what's really going on in my mind."

Deng isn't surprised the rebuilding team made the move.

"I would never make it about me," he told the Times. "The whole year I knew it was about young guys. I think everybody knows that. We've got a lot of talent in this locker room and we want to develop the young guys."

The Pistons (24-28) are trying to take advantage of a friendly February schedule and put themselves in good position for a playoff berth. They play nine of their 12 games this month at The Palace of Auburn Hills. They have won their last three home games, including a 113-96 thumping of Philadelphia on Monday.

"It's always great playing in front of the home crowd," said center Andre Drummond, who had 16 points and 17 rebounds. "I felt good to be home, too, to be in your own bed and be able to practice in your own gym and get yourself prepared to play these games. We've got another home game coming up and we've got to get ourselves ready for it."

Small forward Marcus Morris has perked up offensively the last three games, averaging 24.7 points. He had a team-high 19 points against the 76ers, leading seven Pistons in double figures.

"He's on a pretty good roll," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Marcus is a really good player. Jon (Leuer) went through a slump and he's a really good player. Tobias (Harris) was three for 10 (Monday) and struggled a little bit. Those guys are going to bounce back. They're really good basketball players. We knew at some point Marcus would bounce back and he has very well."

The Lakers have won 12 of the last 15 meetings between the teams but Detroit defeated them at Staples Center, 102-97, on Jan. 15. Morris and Harris scored 23 points apiece in that game.
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