Without Dwight Howard in the lineup in the previous six games, the Los Angeles Lakers conceded 116.3 points per game, while Kobe Bryant struggled, averaging only 25 points per game and making just 37.6% of his shots. Then again, maybe it has to do with them playing the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Yes, the most intriguing losing streak in the NBA is over; after six consecutive losses, the longest depressing streak the Lakers have had in six years, is over. Everyone is all smiles. Suddenly Kobe Bryant shoots only 14 times in a single game and even Metta World Peace, who went on a terrible tear during the previous three losses, takes only five field goal attempts as Dwight Howard, 22 points and 14 rebounds (but also 7 turnovers) took center stage.

When we play like this, we win, and we win big. We’ve just got to continue to learn from games like that, and hopefully we can just string together some wins.

We have to make up that ground. In so many areas, it was big to get a win tonight and have something to build on.

Everyone was so impressed by the defense allowing only 93 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers, keeping them at 41.1% from the field. The one thing they forgot to mention? These are the Cavs, a team that is 9-30 and 5-18 away from home. A team that is one of the six worst defensive units in the NBA, allowing 100.1 points and shoots 41.8% from the field while allowing teams to make 47.3%, worst in the league.

Yes, Kobe Bryant did feel like playing defense, making life very difficult for Kyrie Irving, coming up with 15 points in a loss that had all their starting five with a +/- of under -10, and a game that was over at the end of the first quarter, with the Lakers leading 37-20.

Still, this isn’t the spark that’s going to skyrocket the Lakers back into the postseason and title contention talk. The three previous opponents, while Howard was away (along with Pau Gasol, still out due to a concussion) were the Thunder, Spurs and Rockets; all within the  top 7 in the West, somewhere the Lakers are 4 games away from at the moment, and in all fairness, might not be good enough to make up ground.

Dwight Howard might be some sort of anchor the Lakers are depending on, but one game against the second worst team in the NBA doesn’t change the other problems this team is having – effort and speed on defense, an offense that suddenly becomes all about Kobe Bryant when he feels like it. The answer to all these problems is simply play well, but the next seven games, which include playing at home against the Heat, visiting Memphis and Chicago before hosting the Thunder on a Sunday afternoon might bring the Lakers back to ground.

This win might suggest that 2013 has now officially started for the Lakers, with their first win. It’s more than likely that their problems are still very much a concern, and very soon the placebo effect of a returning Dwight Howard will wear off.

Images: Source