AUBURN HILLS -- The first decision Kobe Bryant made Tuesday night was a disaster.
So was his last.
After starting the game with a new mask that didn't fit, Bryant guessed wrong on the Lakers' final possession of the game, letting the Detroit Pistons pull out an 88-85 overtime victory. It was a typical split-personality performance for the Lakers, who are now 17-2 at home and 6-13 on the road.
With six seconds left, the Lakers needed a 3-pointer to force a second overtime. Bryant expected the Pistons to foul him as soon as he touched the ball, so he threw up a wild 30-footer to try to draw three shots.
Tayshaun Prince, though, didn't go for the foul, and Bryant's heave didn't come close. Metta World Peace grabbed the rebound and raced back to the 3-point line, but his shot bounced harmlessly off the rim as time expired.
Lakers coach Mike Brown didn't want to comment on his star's decision, telling the media to ask Bryant about the decision. Bryant didn't have much to say either.
"Yep," he said, when asked if he had been expecting a foul.
Prince has been defending Bryant since the Lakers and Pistons met in the 2004 finals, and he came up with the right play again on Tuesday.
Detroit coach Lawrence Frank was perfectly willing to foul Bryant with the three-point lead, but relied on Prince to make the call.
"It's the smart thing, but the tough thing is that Kobe is a smart guy, so he knows what the plan is," Frank said. "Tay is obviously very bright, and he did a tremendous job pinning him against the sideline and making it a much tougher play."
It had been that kind of night for Bryant, who had scored 102 points in three home wins after suffering a broken nose and concussion in the All-Star Game. He started Tuesday's game in a brand-new black mask, made for him earlier in the day by the same Detroit craftsman who has made them for Rip Hamilton, Antonio McDyess and Brandon Knight.
Looking oddly like the Lone Ranger, Bryant went 1-for-6 in the first quarter before switching to the clear mask he had used at home.
"We tried to change things up and go with the new mask," said Bryant, who chose the black one over two other new models. "It didn't work, because it was sliding all over the place."
Switching masks didn't help Bryant much -- he finished with 22 points on just 8-of-26 shooting -- but he did have one big moment. With the Pistons leading 78-76, he sent the game to overtime by swishing a 19-footer at the buzzer.
Bryant, though, missed all three of his shots in the extra period, and Rodney Stuckey continued to torment the Lakers. Stuckey had six points in overtime, giving him 34 for the game.
"We couldn't guard Rodney Stuckey tonight," Brown said. "All he did was drive to the basket every time, and he got layup after layup after layup. That was very disappointing."
Stuckey was in early foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the first seven minutes, but once he returned, Los Angeles couldn't stop him.
"I knew I was going to come back in the second quarter, and I knew I'd be going against their second unit," he said. "I knew I could get a few easy baskets off Steve Blake and (Andrew) Goudelock, and from there I just got going.
"That's my game. I've been doing it since high school. Aggressive to the basket."
At the same time, Bryant was trying to be equally aggressive even though Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were dominating the paint. Gasol and Bynum combined for 50 points and 24 rebounds, and forced Greg Monroe into a 1-10 shooting night.
Neither player was willing to openly criticize Bryant's shot choices.
"It wasn't one thing," Bynum said. "We know we didn't move the ball, we didn't move bodies and we got stagnant. That costs us every night. We move the ball to the open man, and everything will work out."
The loss dropped the Lakers percentage points behind the Clippers in the Pacific Division with two games left on this trip, at Washington and Minnesota.
"I'm looking at the standings, and I think everyone in here should be looking at the standings," Gasol said. "With a shortened schedule and with the standings this tight, every game becomes very important. Now we're three losses behind San Antonio, and we're behind the Clippers, and there are a lot of teams right behind us.
"We can't have games like this. We can't afford to do it."