The Lakers looked very good tonight in a must-win game.
The two teams that the Lakers are chasing – the Jazz and Rockets – both came out of the All-Star break with big wins, and tonight the Lakers followed suit, with a very impressive team effort.
The team effort was evident to those who watched the game, but it was also evident in the box score:
- The Lakers had seven players score in double figures
- The Lakers assisted on 24 of their 39 baskets (62%), helping them shoot 51% for the game.
- The Lakers dominated the Celtics on the boards, out-rebounding Boston 49-34, with six Lakers contributing at least four rebounds each.
Could it be that the Lakers found some form of motivation in the passing of beloved owner Jerry Buss, and were inspired by the pre-game tribute?
Or could it have been general manager Mitch Kupchak’s comments earlier in the day, when he very publicly stated that Dwight Howard was the future of the franchise and would not be traded?
Or could it have been that, over the All-Star break, the Lakers came to understand that their margin for error going forward is very, very slim, and that it was time to turn things around?
Whatever the reason for the great team play, it was heartening to watch.
The Lakers, I’m sure, realize that if they are to not only reach the post-season, but also have success in the post-season, then Dwight Howard has to be their best player. And tonight, he was, scoring an efficient 24 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 30 minutes of play.
There was a lot of commentary about how much energy Howard had tonight, but to me the biggest difference was that he was finishing around the hoop, which has been a weakness of his this year.
Earl Clark also had a strong game, scoring 14 points and pulling down a career-high 16 rebounds.
Antawn Jamison and Steve Nash were efficient scorers for the Lakers, with Jamison scoring 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting, while Nash scored 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
Two Lakers reached a total of four milestones tonight:
- Steve Nash passed Magic Johnson for 4th place in career assists, with 10,144.
- Steve Nash passed Derek Fisher for 32nd place in career games played, with 1,183.
- Dwight Howard passed Hot Rod Williams for 34th place in career blocks, with 1,457.
- Dwight Howard passed Michael Cage for 50th place in career rebounds, with 8,649.
With the win tonight, the Lakers moved past Portland and into sole possession of 9th place. That’s a lot better than 12th place, where they had sat for an extended period, but it is still on the outside looking in.
With their next games against 10th place Portland and 11th place Dallas, the Lakers have an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the teams immediately behind them, but more importantly they have a chance to gain on the teams ahead of them.
Lakers’ Player of the Game
In a game when several Lakers gave strong performances, Dwight Howard was the first among equals.
Howard came out strong and set the tone early. By the end of the night, he had scored a very efficient 24 points (10-13 FG, 4-8 FT), grabbed 12 rebounds, and added an assist, a steal, and a block. He also had a game-high plus-minus of +22.
Top Two Tweets in My Twitter Feed
“Nash was very pleased with & complimentary of Howard. He sees that type of effort from Dwight as the key for LAL moving forward.” – @LakersReporter, post-game tweet
“’His vision transcended the game. It became pop culture. The impact is a global one.’ – Kobe Bryant on Dr. Buss (on @TWCSportsNet)” – @SerenaWinters, post-game tweet
Friday, February 22 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, 7:30 p.m. PST