Sports, somehow, are always filled with symbolism. So on the night the Los Angeles Lakers remembered Jerry Buss, they also had to play their historic rival, the Boston Celtics, and just so happened to get a very good game out of Dwight Howard, while all the trade talk around him just refuses to die down.
In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t such a hard win to predict. The Boston Celtics may be a plus .500 team and have beaten the Lakers when the two teams have last met, but like most old teams, or at least those with key players who are advanced in age, they don’t travel well. After the 113-99 defeat at the Staples Center, the Celtics are now 0-7 on the road this season against Western Conference teams, losing by an average of 16.5 points.
It was very fitting. You look at all the trophies, parades and support this team has — that all came from one man. The impact is a global one. We got to continue to carry on what he built.
It’s hard to see the Lakers carrying on with the tradition of success and entertainment this season, but the man labeled as the future of the franchise, Dwight Howard, certainly made himself useful. It wasn’t just the 24 points and 12 rebounds, but it was also his entire effect on defense, showing what a valuable defensive presence he is when he’s in the mood and a bit healthier than usual.
The Lakers outscored the Celtics by 22 points with Dwight Howard on the floor, his highest plus-minus in more than a month. The Lakers grabbed nearly half of their missed shots with Howard on the floor and scored 46 of their 54 paint points in his 30 minutes. This might have been a night dedicated to Jerry Buss, which immediately leaves the new Lakers a bit out of the picture, but the man many thought was going to put on a special show for Buss, Kobe Bryant, was a little bit out of sync, which is understandable, and also quite fitting to his game lately.
Bryant was 5-15 from the field and 0-4 from beyond the arc, making it 1-34 for him over the last 15 games. Howard enjoyed Bryant’s and Nash’s 14 combined assists, as Nash passed Magic Johnson on the all-time assists list.
I was thinking about it all day, getting this win for Dr. Buss. We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity. We have to keep working every day in practice to get better, and hopefully this season can happen for us. We looked like a team. We moved bodies and moved the ball and made it tough on their defense. It gives us a little more of an identity.
Steve Nash (14 points, 7 assists) seems to have worked out things with Howard. It’s not going to turn Dwight Howard into a popular figure all of a sudden, with plenty calling for him to be traded for several reasons, but with the GM denying that issue time and time again, the only chance for the Lakers to make something out of this season is to bring him back into the fold. Maybe Bryant will never give him the benefit of the doubt, but Nash is just as important to this offense and in the inclusion of Howard in the offensive game.
He has to find ways to free me up and therefore, I am going to find ways to free him up. It is still a work in progress, but the last two games before the break he really committed into running pick-and-rolls, setting good screens, rolling hard and you saw either me free for jump shots or him going down the paint for fouls or finishes.