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While world watches Dwight Howard Lakers bench earns win over Rockets

Nov 8, 2013, 2:49 AM EST

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston Rockets Getty Images

The narrative was all about Dwight Howard taking on the Laker team he bolted last summer after a tumultuous season — and if Lakers fans were looking for some schadenfreude they got it.

Howard wasn’t impressive. He finished with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting but just 5-of-16 from the free throw line. He missed key free throws down the stretch (although he was 5-of-10 during the Hack-a-Howard part of the night, which is all Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni ever asked last season). To be fair, Howard completely outplayed Pau Gasol who was just 1-of-10 on the night thanks to Howard’s defense.

However that’s not what decided a generally choppy, sloppy game.

Instead the Lakers won thanks to their guards and their bench. No, not Steve Nash, he was pedestrian. Rather it was the little-regarded guards that mattered. Jodie Meeks came off the bench to score 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Jordan Farmar had 11.

Then there was Steve Blake who knocked down the game winner over Howard with 3.4 seconds left.

With that Los Angeles closed the game on an 8-1 run and won 99-98 to pull to .500 on the season (the Rockets are 4-2).

Like they have several times this season, the Lakers raced out to an early lead, this time it got up to 19 points. Los Angeles shot 54.2 percent overall and 6-of-9 in the first quarter on their way to 36 points. Their wings were hitting shots. Steve Blake 3-4 from three (4-of-6 for the game). Meanwhile the Rockets were 1-7 from three. The Rockets were cold in general shooting 33.3 percent in the first quarter with Harden hitting 2-of-7 from deep.

The Lakers were the more aggressive team, trying to trap on defense and pushing the tempo when they could.

However, like in other games the Lakers gave up that lead. The Lakers got sloppy with eight turnovers in the second half and that fueled Houston’s comeback. James Harden had 35 points but on 9-of-24 shooting.

Going for that schadenfreude the Lakers went to hack-a-Howard in the fourth, but he hit 5-of-10 free throws in that stretch. Last season Mike D’Antoni said if he could get that 50 percent from the line the hacking would stop. That said, he seemed to enjoy doing this from the other side.

The Lakers bench is becoming key for this team — the nights they show up the Lakers get unexpected wins. Like opening night over the Clippers. Or in this game, when the bench had 54 of the Lakers 99 points.

You can’t draw much from this game other than it’s another sign that the Rockets have a ways to go to get to the contender status they envision. As for the Lakers, it’s up and down. Who knows what we get next game from them.

But for a night they made their fan base happy.

  1. Anoesis - Nov 8, 2013 at 3:21 AM

    Yeah, they won another game they weren’t supposed to win. It must be somewhat disappointing for those who were rooting for them to go 0-82. They’ve been competitive in every game but one so far.

    Not a bad start, considering how many new pieces there are and that Bryant isn’t playing yet. Oh, yeah, I forgot that according to those anti-Lakers his return will destroy the team’s chemistry.

    Guess us Lakers’ fans better enjoy our .500 team while it lasts. After all, everyone knows that beating two teams that are supposed to be part of the elite in the west, along with hanging with the team that nearly won it all last year, doesn’t mean anything this early in the season. Right?

    • eugenesaxe1 - Nov 8, 2013 at 3:32 AM

      Right. Portland lost to Phoenix and beat SA. Philly won their first 3. Don’t be getting excited.

    • adamsjohn714 - Nov 8, 2013 at 4:40 AM

      Count on your bench scoring 70 or hitting 15 3s a game and you’ll definitely go .500

      • Anoesis - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:55 PM

        Seventy? That would be epic. I believe the larger picture is that no one outside of the team expected the bench to do much of anything. Everything I read before the season was that the Lakers had a creaky starting five and things fell off dramatically from there. So far that hasn’t been the case. In fact, in the Clippers game the bench outplayed the Clip’s starters. Gasol’s 24 minutes was the most of any starter.

        The Lakers are definitely depending on their bench this year, not only to give the aging starters much-needed rest, but to determine who will stick around next year when the team can shop for a couple of high-impact players. They may not consistently score half or more of the teams points in any given game, but so far they’ve far exceeded expectations.

    • asimonetti88 - Nov 8, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      shhh… this comment doesn’t play into the “Lakers are doomed and will never win anything at all ever again” narrative bro.

  2. 32magicman - Nov 8, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    Howard – ‘free throws were terrible tonight’. You spent all of last season bricking them too and refused any coaching from Nash and Kobe who are exceptional from the stripe. Your brain is the size of a pea.

    • football58 - Nov 8, 2013 at 5:18 AM

      Agreed, Howard’s lack of free throw shooting is why Houston or any team with Howard cannot win a championship.

      • bougin89 - Nov 8, 2013 at 12:12 PM

        It’s also why Shaq could never win a title too…

        Howard might not win a title, ever, but if he doesn’t it won’t be because of his poor free throw shooting.

      • football58 - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        Shaq was a tad bit more dominant than Howard which made up for his in efficiency at the line.

      • bougin89 - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        That was my point.

      • urodaddy07 - Nov 8, 2013 at 6:14 PM

        There’s more to this loss than Howard’s free throws. Howard lacks offensive versatility and as I’ve always thought he’s more of a 18 & 12 guy than the 28 & 15 guy Shaq thinks he’s capable of being. What this means is that. Garden will get no relief particularly at the end of games. He will still have to bear the brunt of the offensive responsibility as it’s very easy to prevent DH from scoring. He doesn’t really command a double team.

  3. hojo20 - Nov 8, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    “WHILE WORLD”??? C’mon man.

    • biasedhomer - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM

      That’s not even the worst part. There is no comma between Howard and Lakers.

      This is the damn title, at least reread that portion of what you wrote.

  4. lakerade - Nov 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    :)

  5. dualprime - Nov 8, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Lakers have a lot of good shooters. Will they get those attempts when Kobe returns? Can you rely on them to hit those shots when Kobe defers to them? It’s one thing to have freedom to shoot when your open. It’s different when you catch the ball knowing Kobe expects you to find him. Not being critical. Just wondering!

  6. stayhigh_247 - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    The Blake Mamba!!!!!!!

  7. mugsybos - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:56 AM

    Craig Sager looks like he wants to laugh when Dwight says the free throws are gonna fall. They haven’t fallen your whole career Dwight, whats gonna make them start falling now?

  8. losanginsight - Nov 8, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Good to see wight is health and in mid season form, missing free throws, lazy help D, and crying after games. The rockets have played the easiest early schedule in the NBA. I’m sure most teams will go to the with the
    hack a coward since it’s obvious she spent no time working on free throws in the off season. This is who this years Lakers are, scrappy, athletic, playing with heart. Hopefully wights finally having fun. That team is going nowhere unless she starts throwing the free throws under handed, which should come natural, like a softball player.

  9. chargerdillon - Nov 8, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    Let’s just say it like it needs to be said. Lakers fans watched close games slip away all last season because of that goof Dwight Howard who never fails to impress with his misses.

    This is the exact reason I’m happy Howard is gone. Nothing is worse than losing a game because a guy can’t hit free throws.

    The Lakers used the same gameplan everybody used on the Lakers last year and they wound up winning a game that had no busines winning.

    Houston, this is your future, every team will hack dwight and cause you losses that should never be. The only thing more pathetic than the Lakers putting all their prayers in 3-shots is a Center with all the talent in the world who wont work to improve his free throw game.

    • kb2408 - Nov 8, 2013 at 5:43 PM

      Preach! All Mike D wanted ol’ Smiling Dwight to do was shoot at least 50% from the charity stripe in the 4th quarter. He couldn’t do it.

    • 00maltliquor - Nov 8, 2013 at 7:08 PM

      Preach!

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