Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe Bryant Clears Way For Dwight Howard

You rub your eyes and you don’t believe it, but Kobe Bryant continues his streak of unselfishness and with it, the Los Angeles Lakers keep winning. Dwight Howard is suddenly the go to guy, everyone is happy and despite not having the kind of defense to make you feel proud, they seem to be on the right path.

A third straight win, something unheard of for the Lakers in 2013, improving to 111-106, four games behind the Houston Rockets but having played two games less. The New Orleans Hornets made things very difficult for the Lakers in the end, almost erasing an 18 point lead the Lakers built in the middle of the fourth quarter.

We’re doing a good job of not being selfish, and of doing whatever we can to help our team win. Things are clicking for us. Our offense is a lot smoother, and on defense we’re really holding each other accountable.

Suddenly, when the Lakers are beginning to play like a team, everything is simply. Kobe Bryant scored 14 points, taking only 12 field goal attempts and dishing 11 assists to go with his 8 rebounds. Bryant has never had 39 assists over a three game period. He’s also the first player in four years to have a streak of at least 10 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists in three consecutive games. LeBron James, obviously, is the previous player to do it, back in 2009.

Dwight Howard had quite a performance himself; He scored 24 points and added 5 steals and 4 blocks, only the second player in the last 14 years (along with Gerald Wallace) to finish with that kind of stat line or better. Howard looking happy is probably the best news the Lakers have had all season, as the man this defense was supposed to be built around is suddenly looking good enough, healthy enough and motivated enough to take on the challenge of defending for a coach how doesn’t care about it.

Pau Gasol isn’t exactly flourishing with his old numbers now that he’s the sixth player, but there’s no doubt he’s feeling more comfortable in the low post. He didn’t score much, adding only 5 points, but did grab 7 rebounds and dished out 7 assists in his 21 minutes on the floor. Earl Clark is doing a great job in the starting lineup, adding 20 points and 12 rebounds, averaging 11 and 8.8 in the last 10 games.

Kobe Bryant, after half a season of sulking and spraying cynical answers at reports, isn’t too angry anymore to speak about what’s going on in the basketball games. Everything’s easy when you’re winning – It’s very easy for me to look over the defense and know where they’re coming from, just kind of line my guys up in the right way and just pick them apart.

Is this the return of the Lakers into the playoffs? Into the title race? Hold on. The big test begins now: The Lakers go on a brutal road stretch that will take them to Phoenix, Minnesota, Detroit, Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte and Miami, playing seven games in 12 days, which will be a real test of strength, character and fitness for a team that is only 5-15 on the road.

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