Howard, Lakers make first win look easy
by David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Finally, the bruised, battered but not broken Los Angeles Lakers found someone they could beat.
They might be the worst pro basketball team in Los Angeles — so far, anyway — but they showed Sunday night before a very relieved, celebratory Staples Center crowd that they’re not going to be the worst team in the NBA.
But more than their first victory of the season, the Lakers’ 108-79 trouncing of the winless Detroit Pistons Sunday night unveiled in the clearest manner yet how the new-look Lakers envision taking on the NBA this season.
The inside game was dominant, with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol combining for 30 points in the first half, when the Lakers outscored the Pistons 62-34. Eight minutes into the third quarter, that number was 40, and the score was 82-46. At the end of the game, Howard and Gasol combined to shoot 18-for-30 for 42 points, with Howard 12-for-14 for 28 points.
Even without injured playmaker supreme Steve Nash, who has built a Hall of Fame career on getting the ball to scorers, the Lakers imposed their will inside. Filling Nash’s playmaker role was none other than Kobe Bryant, who dished early and often, amassing eight assists in the first half alone.
Bryant, who shot well and scored big in the first three games, had just four assists in those games. But he started the game in a facilitating mode and found lots of teammates in good spots – primarily, he found Howard within dunk/layup range.
Still, to remind everyone that no shot is too impossible for him to take — and make — Bryant, near the end of the second quarter, flashed into the lane, took a pass, floated to his left, turned his back to the basket and nonchalantly spun in a backhand bank shot of maybe six feet. After scoring 22, 30 and 40 in the first three games, Bryant only shot 10 times Sunday and finished with 15 points.
So, after a stunning home-opener loss to the Dallas Mavericks and decisive losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and the Clippers, not only was there a … [For more on Dwight Howard, Lakers make first win look easy vs. Pistons, click here.]