“This is where we figure out who we are as a team.”: Can the fake Malice at the Palace be the turning point for the Lakers?

As LeBron walked off the court after being ejected for a flagrant two that almost started the sequel to the Malice at the Palace, leaving his teammates left to pick up the scraps of a double digit deficit, I thought was this rock bottom for this Lakers team?

Being down double digits to a 4 win Pistons team, while at full strength should be rock bottom. But we have also seen this same Lakers team blow 26 point leads to the OKC Thunder who have no desire to win gams until 2023, so maybe not.

With LeBron in the locker room, the Pistons lead grew to 17 and the Lakers appeared to be in disarray and ready to join their leader soon rather than later.

The movie equivalent would be someone appearing to fall off a bridge only to be saved at the last moment. A hand shooting up from a grave.

For the real-life Lakers, it was the relentless attacking of Russell Westbrook. It was the smothering defense of Anthony Davis. Oh and wisdom from the apparent voice of the locker room, Carmelo Anthony.

How many times this season have the Lakers needed the two complementary members of their big three to step up in James’ absence? On Sunday, in truly dire circumstances, they delivered, overwhelming the youthful Pistons to lift the Lakers to a 121-116 win at Little Caesars Arena.

The Lakers trailed by 15 when they regrouped on the bench at the end of the third quarter. They were two nights removed from an embarrassing loss in Boston, a game that had stirred up all the necessary speeches about urgency and winning the rest of the games on the road trip.

At that moment, trailing by double figures, Carmelo Anthony challenged the rest of his team.

“This is where we figure out who we are as a team.” Anthony said

Others followed Melo’s message.

Westbrook said he told the team, “We gonna win this game.”

Westbrook scored 15 of his 26 points in the final quarter, turning the game with a personal 9-0 run, including a thundering dunk over Hamidou Diallo that delivered a statement of the Lakers’ intent to come back. It was shades of OKC Russ.

“What I saw was someone that just showed that will that Russell is famous for,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “That he’s just going to be relentless attacking the basket and hopefully making the right plays every time when he gets there and he just had extreme lock in on both sides of the ball.”

Davis finished with a team-high 30 points, including 12 in the fourth, but sealed the win with his defense.

He blocked a 3-point attempt by Pistons prized rookie Cade Cunninghamwith 63 seconds left. Then, when Cunningham recovered the ball and tried to drive on Davis, the Lakers big man blocked him again. When the Pistons inbounded the ball trailing by three with 5.9 seconds left, it was Davis who came up with the steal.

It was a stunning 180 from the scene earlier in the night, when the Lakers appeared certain to continue their slide after the altercation.

“It could have made us unravel or it could have brought us together,” center DeAndre Jordan said, “and I think it did just that. It brought us together. We were down, we could have easily folded, let go of the rope, but we didn’t.”

As expected the Lakers pointed to the incident, which happened at the 9:18 mark of the third quarter, not only as a turning point in the game, but also a potential momentum swing for their entire season.

“Hopefully this will spark a little fire under our you-know-what to get going,” Davis said.

Said Westbrook: “When you finally break the seal and come collectively and get a big road win, it’s important. It gives you momentum kind of leading into the next game.”

The Lakers have more work to do before they can start claiming a tidal shift has occurred.

For a team that said all of the right things after getting thumped by the Celtics, for most of three quarters the Lakers showed none of the urgency or commitment to defense they preached.

The incident with Stewart felt like an avatar for much of the Lakers’ season. A momentum of frustration boiling over at an inopportune time. The two had to be separated and security and coaches flooded the court. Multiple times Stewart seemed to be pulled away from the players only to storm back in.

It was an ugly scene, one that had the potential to shape the Lakers’ season one way or another.

Whether it galvanizes the Lakers and reverses the course of their season remains to be seen. It was a convenient talking point on a night they barely squeaked past an inferior opponent.

Before any definitive can be made about what last night meant for the Lakers season, we must first see if the Lakers were all talk like Stewart was when LeBron was right in his face, or if they’re really about changing things.

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