The Los Angeles Lakers look to be finally be finding their footing early on in the 2019-20 NBA season as they pulled out a 120-101 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets are not expected to be a playoff team after letting Kemba Walker leave in 2019 NBA free agency for the Boston Celtics, but they came out and struck first as they took advantage of a Lakers first unit that seemed to be playing down to their competition.
Anthony Davis kept Los Angeles afloat early as he scored 16 points in the first quarter and made several defensive plays.
The game was close for the first three quarters until a push at the beginning of the fourth helped put the game away. LeBron James finally got going on the offensive end and the defensive intensity picked up and limited Charlotte to only 39 points in the second half.
While James and Davis paced the team in scoring, it was Dwight Howard who turned in the most impressive performance as he earned a 16-point, 10-rebound double-double off the bench in only 23 minutes of action.
In his postgame interview, James seemed pleased with Howard’s performance and expressed his confidence in him.
“That’s why we brought him here,” James said. “We believed in him and his word, and he’s making the most of it. We’re truly excited to have him here right now.”
There was plenty of skepticism to go around when the Lakers decided to sign Howard in the offseason following DeMarcus Cousins‘ ACL injury. The former and current Laker had bounced around in the league and only managed to play nine games with the Washington Wizards during the 2018-19 season after suffering a back injury.
However, Howard’s second stint in Los Angeles has been nothing short of a success so far as he has bought into his role as a big man off the bench who needs to set hard screens and clean the glass. He has also looked impressive on the defensive end as he has done a good job at containing dribble penetration and contesting shots at the rim.
It is only three games in, but the purple and gold are doing a good job of adhering to the defensive identity that James admitted they are looking to establish this season.
Howard has been an integral part of that process and hopefully he and the rest of the team can continue to build upon it when they take on the Memphis Grizzlies next.