Dwight Howard punctuated his and front office assertions that he will remain a Laker beyond the trade deadline by punishing the Celtics at Staples. As the Rockets’ James Harden made his own “I told you so” statement with 46 points in an improbable win against his old team, the Lakers’ guards took turns dishing to their media battered center to the tune of 24 points on 10-13 shooting and 12 rebounds as they returned the favor and ran Boston out of their gym, 113-99.
Concerns following the All Star Break either revolve around loss of rhythm due to the layoff or the residual impact of fear of getting laid off. The Lakers’ only concern involves the issues that have plagued them all season – consistency. Trading Dwight after losing a coach, two front court players to injury, and a Hall of Fame owner would serve as another cataclysmic shift and most likely spell the end of the quest for O’Brien number 17.
Instead of watching Dwight go elsewhere, Kobe and Nash collaborated to utilize his strengths against the equally injured Celtics. With seven assists apiece, the Lakers’ facilitators found their mate with regularity, jumping ahead 36-27 on 50% shooting and rarely looking back. Instead of operating as independent facilitators, the MVPs kept the C’s defense on their heels with precision passing to the rest of the squad that evoked memories of the Great Western Forum. Inglewood’s own Paul Pierce, a childhood Laker fan, even honored the memory of the founder of Showtime by torching the Lakers for 23 first half points with equally efficient shooting. But, the Lakers countered with seven players in double figures, including 33 from the 2nd unit and climbed into sole possession of 9th place in the Western Conference.
Fighting for a spot in the playoffs will require performances like this one on a regular basis from here on out. Despite their talented roster and impressive resumes, LA must play together. With 27 games remaining in the season and a steady 3.5 game gap between them and the 8th seed, the Lakers find themselves with very little wiggle room. A W against their legendary rivals, the very reason why Jerry Buss purchased the Lakers, not only helps them keep pace with Rockets for the playoffs, but the victory also proves to the scrutinized Lakers that team chemistry is the key.
Dr. Buss definitely would have appreciated that.