Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 113-99 victory Wednesday over the Boston Celtics at Staples Center:
1. The Lakers have a great tribute toward Dr. Buss. Touching, touching stuff. The Lakers showed a brief compilation of Buss witnessing great moments in the team’s storied history. Buss had an audio recording dated Feb. 14, 2011 that provided gratitude for the fan support. Kobe Bryant described Buss as the best owner. Meanwhile, plenty of well wishes hugged Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss by her front row seat.
A 16-year-old girl yelled “Oh my gosh” as she forgot the lyrics to the national anthem. But the Lakers and Staples Center cheered her on and she fed off the energy to finish the song. Then Lakers fans yelled at very loud boos toward the Celtics during lineup introductions. Touching stuff all away around.
2. The Lakers fed off that energy. The four-days rest during All-Star break. The Celtics coming off a road back-to-back. The emotions surrounding Buss’ passing and tribute. All of those elements contributed to the Lakers playing with more purpose and focus right from the beginning of the game. The Lakers consistently passed the ball. They rotated. The Lakers dominated in rebounds (49-24). They limited the Celtics from getting out int he open floor (11 fast break points). If only the Lakers provided this effort every game.
3. Dwight Howard looked healthier and more focused. His 24 points on 10 of 13 shooting and 12 rebounds represented everything the Lakers initially envisioned when he came on board. Howard muscled his way in the paint and added a nice touch to a few hook shots. He anchored the defense, sliding over well on pick and roll coverages and intimidating opponents in the lane. Howard looked engaged on every single play and didn’t let Kevin Garnett’s physicality rattle him.
It’s too easy to chalk this up to Howard trying more. It also looks like he’s healthier than what he’s shown this season because of his 10-month old surgically repaired back and aggravated labrum in his right shoulder. It’s clear the All-Star break provided wonders in that area.
4. Steve Nash looked more aggressive for his shot. His talent forever rests in his passing. Hence, why Nash moved past Magic Johnson for fourth place on the NBA’s all-time assist leaders. But Nash looked more comfortable looking for his shots off screens, resulting in 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
The Lakers still managed a balanced offense with Howard (24), Kobe Bryant (16), Antawn Jamison (15), Earl Clark (14), Metta World Peace (12) and Steve Blake (10) also cracking double figures. But Nashs’s assertiveness for his shot forced Boston’s defense to stay honest when he handled the ball. In turn, that resulted in plenty of open looks for Nash’s teammates.
5. The Lakers showed stronger effort on defense. So it’s apparent World Peace struggled containing Paul Pierce, who exploded for 26 points on 9 of 17 shooting. But take away his clip and the Celtics only shot 30 of 65 from the field (46 percent). Attribute plenty of that to Howard keeping the Lakers’ defense organized. But the Lakers also improved on getting back in transition defense, closing out on the perimeter and controlling the boards, led by Earl Clark’s career-high 16 rebounds.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org