Hard as it may be to accept, there were some positives aspects of the Los Angeles Lakers’ embarrassing 116-95 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday night.
First of all, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash did not play a single minute of the fourth quarter. That extra bit of rest should come in handy with the Lakers traveling to Charlotte and playing the Bobcats on Friday night. Also, Metta World Peace only played three minutes in the final period, so his legs should be fresh.
The other two starters, Dwight Howard and Earl Clark, played about seven minutes in the fourth quarter. Clark is young enough to recover for Friday’s game. Howard played until he was fouled out, and he was likely only on the court to regain some conditioning after missing the last three games due to a shoulder injury.
The second positive to take away from the loss in Boston was that Howard finally returned to the team. Although nine points and nine rebounds were not good enough against the Celtics, Howard’s return to the floor was necessary for a team that only had rookie Robert Sacre available as a true center.
Howard has underachieved all season long, but he still has the ability to win over an unconvinced fan base by putting together a good run over the next two months—the timetable of Pau Gasol’s recovery from a foot injury.
Howard's "been cleared for a while," coach Mike D’Antoni revealed after the game.
Bryant took a great deal of criticism prior to the game for making statements to ESPN Boston suggesting that Howard should play through the pain. However, considering the coach’s postgame comments, Bryant may not have been completely off-base to publicly harass Howard back onto the floor.
In any case, Howard is back, and that is something to build off for a struggling and hobbled Lakers team.
The final positive to take out of Thursday’s nationally-televised embarrassment in Boston is that it is in the past. World Peace is back. Howard is back. Bryant is still incredible. Nash can still shoot. Earl Clark can do everything.
The Lakers are still in the race for the playoffs and can qualify for the postseason if they can put this puzzle together. The Lakers lost in Boston and now they can move on to their next game.
On Friday, the Lakers take on the Charlotte Bobcats on the second night of a back-to-back.