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Dwight Howard made his return to the court after injuring his shoulder, and the Lakers finally won a game in 2013. It's one game at a time now for the Lakers.
The Lakers can pop their first bottle of champagne in the year of 2013. The seal has been broken; the Lakers won. They dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers from the opening tip, so much in fact that Kobe Bryant was able to sit the entire 4th quarter and kept his minutes under the 30 minute mark. When the shots are falling and the defense is balling, that "we want tacos" chant comes a' calling. Lakers snap their six game losing streak tonight in a 113-93 victory over the Cavs.
Kobe Bryant played a superb game tonight. In his 27 minutes of playing he had 23 points (9-14 fg) and 6 assists that came mostly in the first quarter as he helped set up his teammates. As it goes with Kobe, he actually played defense throughout the night as he spent the majority of his minutes matched up against Kyrie Irving. When an enticing individual match-up calls Kobe expends his energy on defense, which was a definite key for the Lakers. Irving finished with 15 points on 7-15 shooting and 7 assists.
Positive news trickled down to the Lakers fan base just before the game though as Dwight Howard was cleared to make his return. Howard played 29 minutes in his return and had 22 points, 14 rebounds, and a great performance defensively. It's obvious watching him play in comparison to the "Dwight" that anchored the Orlando Magic, but still worth noting that Howard is still far from being healthy. It's unclear what his new 100% will look like once he gets there, but even with him being hampered, he continues to play at an exceptional level.
Pau Gasol continues to miss time with his concussion but actually sat on the bench with the team for the first time since being ruled out. Originally, the Lakers training staff had kept him away from the court entirely as the loud noises and bright lights could only set back his recovery. In the meantime, Earl Clark continues to provide Lakers with plenty of check marks in their team needs column. Youth, athleticism, effort, defensive ability both off and on ball, and his jumper doesn't look terrible at this juncture. If Clark can continue to provide these specific things in a positive light, his role with the Lakers will continue to grow, especially with Jordan Hill out for the remainder of the season. Tonight Clark put in 13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocked shots while also providing the kind of defense the Lakers have lacked on the perimeter.
Lets hope the Lakers tighten a few screws on the offensive end going forward, though. Winning games while turning the ball over 22 times (Howard had 7 of them) isn't a sustainable formula and it's extremely fortunate the Lakers were able to withstand that atrocious stat. The Cavaliers only put in 12 fast break points on the night. The Lakers found their shooting touch which has been a lost art over this losing stretch, and they put up a 13-25 shooting performance from deep. Metta World Peace had 4 steals on the night along with 1 kissed hand after being fouled on a slam dunk that went down after a giant bounce off the rim. Antawn Jamison and Darius Morris provided 30 points off the bench. Plenty of things went right for the Lakers in a season where just about everything has gone wrong. And, lo and behold, the Lakers were victorious.
The Lakers needed this win. Not because it was a "big" game, but because games against teams that aren't contenders like the Cavaliers (now 9-30 on the season and without Anderson Varejao) are the kind of games the Lakers must use to vault them back into the playoff race. The Lakers did what they had to do to win, but in true proper-perspective form, the Cavaliers didn't do themselves any favors as they missed a ridiculous amount of gimmes around the rim. Regardless, the Lakers won, free tacos will be eaten, and next up for the Lakers is a Tuesday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Full recap in the morning. Metta World Peace kissing hands till then. Mike D'Antoni said the Lakers season began today. The Lakers' frantic chase of the playoffs is off to a 1-0 start.
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