In their first game since losing Kobe Bryant to a ruptured Achillies tendon, Dwight Howard and the Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 91-86.
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With Howard becoming the focal point of the offense without Bryant, he showed up in a big way Sunday night, scoring 26 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking three shots.
After the game, Mike Trudell of TWC SportsNet asked Howard about the teams’ effort:
“We played hard, trusted each other and dominated. We all know how to play and we’re going show everyone what we got”.
When asked about what the team needs to keep doing:
“Just go dominate. It doesn’t matter if we struggle on offense, if we play defense and go out there and play hard, we’ll be fine”.
Howard has clamored for the ball for the duration of the season and without Kobe in the lineup he will be relied upon to do most of the heavy lifting. Even though he didn’t shoot well from the free throw line, going an unimpressive 8-17, Howard picked up his game in other areas.
Tonight was reminiscent of how Howard played in Orlando and the Lakers need him to continue to play with energy every night. With Pau Gasol struggling to find his shot, Howard was trusted with the ball down the stretch.
Appearing on NBATV after the game, Howard embraced his new role even more:
“I’m gonna step up and give this team & this city everything I’ve got”.
It seems that Howard has changed his tune from earlier in the year and seems genuinely happy in Los Angeles. His play against the Rockets on Wednesday and in the playoffs will go a long way in securing his future as a Laker.
While Howard hasn’t had a clear-cut “Lakers Moment”, his play as “the guy” will go a long way in easing Laker fans about his ability to be a franchise player.
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