Not having Dwight Howard to start the game; not having Pau Gasol to finish it; Kobe Bryant back to his old shooting numbers as a result. Despite all of that, the Los Angeles Lakers have now won three consecutive games on the road and six of their last seven.
So, what was the magic formula? Despite statistics usually telling us one thing, life can go on without actually having a few numbers explaining it all. Even in sports. Maybe it’s about morale and rallying behind Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, as the Lakers once again look like a team, despite all of the individual talent gone missing.
Dwight Howard has now missed three consecutive games, all won by the Lakers, due to his torn labrum in his right shoulder. Some thought he might return against the Nets, but for now, he’s being kept out. Now that Gasol might be injured, with some kind of magical force connecting it to his LA Times interview about not being happy getting benched and his role with the Lakers, maybe Howard will rush his return.
Gasol has been diagnosed with a strained plantar fascia, and will undergo an MRI exam Wednesday in Boston. According to him, he felt a pop in his right foot when he went down with a little more than 4 minutes remaining. Gasol finished the game after 34 minutes, scoring 15 points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Wasn’t Mike D’Antoni planning on resting the big man by sitting him on the bench?
The Lakers still won, despite all the problems, coming up with a 92-83 win against the Brooklyn Nets, running out of happinnes and charm that was overflowing after changing their head coach. When Deron Williams and Joe Johnson struggle, shooting a combined 9-28 from the floor, there’s a very good chance the Nets will lose.
So despite Kobe Bryant taking 24 shots, the Lakers won. There’s no magic in the number, just an indication to a trend. But without Howard and without Gasol for the final minutes, you don’t expect Bryant to keep on acting pass-happy, do you? He finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and one dunk that everyone is still talking about.
It feels good to pull out a win like this, but now reality kind of sets in. If Pau can’t go and Dwight can’t go, we have to figure some things out.
The Lakers lost all three games without both Howard and Gasol, and didn’t look too competitive in any of them. Earl Clark, with another double double (his fourth in five games) with 15 points and 12 rebounds is a nice revelation as a small forward who can play as a big man, but it’s certainly not a defensive answer if both Howard and Gasol are out, in a time when every win matters for the Lakers, trying to keep up with the surging Rockets for the last place in the Western Conference.
But maybe after all it is about numbers. Mike D’Antoni’s first win as a Los Angeles Lakers coach was against the Nets on November 20. The Nets haven’t beaten the Lakers since Nov. 25, 2007. Regardless of the Lakers not playing with Gasol, Howard and Metta World Peace, there just wasn’t a chance they’re going to lose.