After paying respects to the late great Dr. Jerry Buss, it is time to return to the business of basketball, and the Los Angeles Lakers have got some work to do with the Portland Trail Blazers coming to pay a visit on Friday night at Staples Center.
The Lakers have to be feeling strong about their chances of making the playoffs, given the team’s recent run of form. LA has won nine of its last 13 games entering Friday night. Also, their visiting opponents are on a bad streak of losses that stretches back six games.
Even with that terrible stretch of basketball, the Trail Blazers are only half a game behind the Lakers in the standings.
At this point, Triple Threat has lost count as to how many times the Lakers have had to restart their season during the 2012-13 campaign, but the All-Star break kicked off another chapter in the Lakers’ saga.
The title of this newest chapter is most certainly “Dwight Howard.”
Whether the Lakers crash and burn or strut and succeed, Howard will be the central figure in the Lakers’ post-All-Star break sprint to the finish line. If the Lakers can gain a stable stride and shift into a higher gear at the right time, they still have the talent and experience to achieve the ultimate goal—winning a championship remains the ultimate hope of every Lakers fan, but making the playoffs is the immediate goal.
On Thursday, Howard was not dealt at the trade deadline, so the Lakers held true to their public promise about trusting the franchise on the back of the 27-year-old.
Clearly energized from the All-Star break and inspired by the passing of Dr. Buss, Howard came out with added intensity, energy, and mobility against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. He played as impressive a game as he has ever played in purple of gold.
Against Boston, Howard’s 12 points, six rebounds, and increased defensive energy helped the Lakers establish a nine-point lead in the opening period. The Lakers would go on to protect that lead for the remainder of the game and open the lead out to as many as 22 points.
Howard was especially effective on the offensive boards, as the Lakers’ latest big man pulled down seven of his twelve rebounds on the offensive end against the Celtics. Howard’s 24 points led the Lakers’ balanced offense against Boston, and seven Lakers scored in double figures.
The Lakers last played Portland on Dec. 28 at Staples Center, and the LA blazed Portland on that occasion. Howard had 21 points and 14 rebounds that time, so the Lakers would happily accept more of the same on Friday night.