Just as the Lakers wrapped up their morning shootaround, Dwight Howard summoned the team over.
“Let’s start now with our energy,” Howard said before the Lakers headed their separate ways.
They noticeably lacked that quality as the Lakers fell to 0-3, the first time the organization began the season in such a hole since the 1978-79 hole. They looked sluggish understanding the revamped offense involving elements of the Princeton system. That frustration boiled over defensively. And with the Lakers going eight consecutive days with a practice and a game, a few players suggested their weary legs already fell off.
But Howard noticed the Lakers’ energetic performance in their morning shootaround carried over into the Lakers’ 108-79 victory Sunday over the Detroit Pistons. Suddenly, the Lakers didn’t look like a super-star laden team without any identity. They now had a purpose.
“It gives us a little belief,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “Every win that we get gives us a little more belief on both ends of the floor.”
Forget that the Lakers (1-3) beat up on the Detroit Pistons (0-3), who could only shoot 35.4 percent from the field. The Lakers needed this win.
They needed it so they’d have more patience navigating the elements of the Princeton system. They needed it so they wouldn’t feel as frustrated hanging on the team’s defensive effort as they learn the nuances of the offense. They needed it to quiet the general public calling for Brown’s dismissal.
“I think it’s more of a relief for Mike more than anybody else,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant joked. “We’re good.”
But the Lakers needed it as well. After all, the Lakers acknowledged afterwards that their 0-3 start planted an unsettling feeling in the locker room.
“It’s just a change in mood and it gives us some momentum and that feel-good feeling,” Lakers guard Steve Blake said. “Now we’re ready to move forward. We’ve seen some things that worked for us. We have to stick to them.”
Howard, who posted a team-leading 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks, eclipsed his output Friday against the Clippers (13 points) by the 8:38 mark of the second quarter.
Bryant scored 15 points in only 32 minutes, a far cry from the 40-point outburst the Lakers needed from him in 43 minutes in their loss to the Clippers. The Lakers finally made defensive stops, holding the Pistons to a 36.4 percent shooting clip. Steve Blake and Darius Morris absorbed Steve Nash’s absence with a mild fracture in his left leg by combining for 12 points and eight assists.
After shooting only 34.8 percent to open the season, Metta World Peace suddenly found his stroke with 18 points on a 7-for-11 clip. Howard received his fair share of lobs from Gasol, Bryant, Blake and Morris. Gasol also punished Detroit from double-teaming Howard by scoring 14 points, though he shot only 6 of 16 from the field.
Jordan Hill also posted 11 points and seven rebounds, while Blake tied a career-high in steals (five). Even rookie Darius Johnson-Odom, who didn’t play, provided a role.
“He took all these notes on what’s working and what’s not working,” World Peace said. “It’s really good. He’s not even playing. He’s into the game. Totally into the game. Things like that are a positive.”
So is the Lakers earning their first win.
“We had to stop the bleeding,” Pau Gasol said. “There’s not a way to do it other than coming out here tonight and getting a good, solid win. Does it mean that all the issues are solved? No. Does it mean that we shouldn’t continue to work and pay attention to all the things that we try to do well? Absolutely not. We just need to build on this and utilize this just to get a little bit of that tension out of ourselves and play better ball from now on, on both ends of the floor.”
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