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Dwight Howard leads Lakers to win over Celtics

Feb 21, 2013, 2:49 AM EDT

Dwight Howard, Jason Collins

Dwight Howard spent much of his media time in Houston over All-Star weekend deflecting questions about his future. If he can play out the remainder of the season the way he performed on Wednesday, the answers will speak for themselves.

Howard was active from the very start, and helped set the tone for his team as the Lakers led wire to wire in their 113-99 win over the Celtics.

It was an emotional night in Los Angeles, as the team honored owner Jerry Buss, who passed away at the age of 80 on Monday, with a video tribute and a speech to the crowd before tip-off from Kobe Bryant. The Lakers came out strong in the first quarter as a result, and Howard’s play was the catalyst for the effort that extended through to the final buzzer.

The criticism with Howard’s play to this point of the season can be partially blamed on injury. He began the season not fully recovered from back surgery, and then has played through the pain of a torn labrum in his right shoulder, while missing time due to the injury in two separate stretches.

But there’s also been an effort and body language issue which has been even more troublesome, and on display far more often than the team would like to see, especially given the franchise’s long-term vision that has Howard firmly in the picture.

Neither the injury nor a lack of effort was present in this one, as Howard went to work early, and looked every bit as dominant as we’ve seen him be in the past. Offensively, he was constantly working to establish good position inside, while setting solid screens for Steve Nash out top instead of slipping them too soon as he’s done the majority of the season.

Howard finished with a team-high 24 points and 12 rebounds on 10-13 shooting, and he helped get Nash going by clearing space with those screens. Nash finished with 14 points and seven assists on 6-7 shooting, and with his fifth assist of the night passed Magic Johnson to move into fourth place all-time in that category.

Howard and Nash played together in this one, and gave us a glimpse of exactly what the Lakers envisioned was possible when assembling this team over the summer. It’s only one game, of course, but the possibilities are exciting when you see the two play in this way, even for small stretches.

This game was never in doubt for the Lakers — the team led by as many as 14 in the first half, 19 in the third quarter, and 22 in the fourth, with Boston getting no closer than 12 points at any time in the final 12 minutes.

It was an off night offensively for Kobe Bryant, who finished with 16 points on just 5-15 shooting. But he, like the rest of the team played with a high level of energy, and matched Nash with seven assists. Earl Clark continued to produce inside, and hauled down a career-high 16 rebounds.

The Lakers had a lot going for them in this game in terms of motivation. They were waxed by the Celtics just two weeks ago, so there was some payback in order. There’s the increased desperation in place to make a run to the postseason now that the All-Star break is behind us. And of course, there was the emotion behind playing the team’s first game since the passing of its legendary owner.

It wasn’t a surprise that the Lakers were able to come out and play harder than a Celtics team known for effort above all else on this night. The play of Howard might have been, however, and if he can find a way to consistently perform at that level for the team’s remaining games, there won’t be any lingering questions about his future, or of who will be the star to anchor the Lakers franchise in the years to come.

  1. nokoolaidcowboy - Feb 21, 2013 at 6:53 AM

    Where the hell was this before?

    • fanofevilempire - Feb 21, 2013 at 7:00 AM

      let’s see what they have now, I hope they can at least make a run at the 8 spot.

    • dls612 - Feb 21, 2013 at 7:04 AM

      Wait for it!

    • stoutfiles - Feb 21, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      Celts are tired, 5 games in 8 days. Lakers are motivated after Buss ided.

      Don’t worry, this is just one game. By next week we’ll be hearing once again how the team is falling apart.

  2. doublezero74 - Feb 21, 2013 at 7:30 AM

    Schedule makers did no favors for the celtics. 5 games in 7 nights? We keep playing the lakers on a second half of a back to back set with travel involved. The lakers played great so they deserve the W, but the Celts were behind the 8 ball on this deal

  3. themagicfanguy - Feb 21, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    @fanofevilempire This just in! They can’t.

  4. loungefly74 - Feb 21, 2013 at 8:43 AM

    any win over the Celtics…is a great win. (those of us in the long haul of things know this and relish it)

  5. omniusprime - Feb 21, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    The win was good but the Celtics played like a bunch of tired old men who needed their rocking chairs. Howard did play well and we can only hope that he continues with this kind of performance. The Lakers were able to overcome another pathetic coaching job by the worst coach in Laker history. They even overcame another pathetic performance by the two worst point guards, Trash Nash and Steve Flake. Neither of these incompetent guards played any defense.

    It was nice to see the Lakers show some pride for our beloved Dr. Jerry Buss but this was too little too late as our greatest owner of all sports and all time had to endure his last season watching the Lakers fall apart under the incompetent guidance of that little idiot buss boy.

    Thanks Dr. Buss, Rest in Peace!!! Fire Dumbtoni!!! Trade Trash Nash and Steve Flake!!!

  6. dannymac17 - Feb 21, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Don’t worry, they will be back to arguing and Dwight being Dwight.

  7. golfrangeman - Feb 21, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    Howard played well but he still doesn’t have that lift he use to have. Kinda reminds me of Larry Johnson ( grand ma ma ) after he got injured. Not sure if this is a permanent thing or just temporary.

    • bigbamboom1 - Feb 21, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Not all of it yet. But he’s getting real close. If he can stay away from further injury, he could be back by playoff time if they can sneak in. And I sure wouldn’t want to play a red hot version of this team in the first round of the playoffs if I was OKC or San Antonio! The Lakers with confidence would be their worst first round nightmares. And if I was the Lakers, I would actually want that 8 seed. Just to ambush and knock off all of the great teams early.

  8. bigbamboom1 - Feb 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Dwight can do this every night, Kobe can do this every night. Steve Nash can do this every night. The X factor for the Lakers has been and still is, Ron “metta World Peace” Artest. There was actually a sighting last night. He absolutely has to knock down those mid-range jumpers, occasional 3’s and layups for them to compete at a high level. He is the real culprit who has failed the Lakers the most. Dwight has been playing hurt for the first half of the season. He is just starting to come around. And just in time. But Artest must give them reliably 14+ points per night, 7 rebounds and 1-3 steals. That is his role. When he does it, the Lakers can compete with any team in the NBA. when he plays like garbage (like the full first half of the season), they fall short.

  9. BigBeachBall - Feb 21, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Celtics didn’t try…. out of respect.

  10. phillylawhopeful - Feb 21, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    Shouldn’t this article be titled: Kobe Kobes the Kobes to a Kobe over the Celtics?

  11. jimeejohnson - Feb 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    Bozos and PaulHargis must’ve ran away together. Or, they could have been the same person!

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