As the team plays for first time since the death of owner Jerry Buss, the team came out on top in a emotion-driven performance.
The Los Angeles Lakers won in their first game since their long-time owner Jerry Buss died, beating their mighty rivals the Boston Celtics 113-99 behind 24 points from Dwight Howard on Wednesday.
Howard also had 12 rebounds and Kobe Bryant finished with 16 points and seven assists as the Lakers celebrated their bittersweet victory over the Celtics, whom they have met 12 times in the NBA finals.
“It was personally very important,” Bryant said of Wednesday’s victory. “I know how much it meant to him every time we played the Celtics so this was an important game.”
The night of tributes to Buss, who was 80 years old, included a new memorial patch on the Lakers’ uniforms with the initials “JB”. A white board was placed outside the main entrance of Staples Center arena where fans could write sympathetic messages before heading into the game.
Inside the arena there was a short video tribute to Buss — played on the giant screen before the game — followed by a speech from Bryant and then a moment of silence. Buss died on Monday due to kidney failure.
“On Monday we lost who we all know to be the greatest owner in sports,” Bryant said. “He was a brilliant and incredible owner and an even better person with a great heart.
“We were all spoiled by his vision and his drive to win year after year.
“One thing we could always count on was the great Dr. Jerry Buss looking over this franchise from his box.”
Former Laker icon Magic Johnson said he hoped Buss’s children do not try to unload the team.
“He meant so much to me. His beautiful smile and warm heart,” Johnson said.
“His door was open to anybody. When you lose legends like Jerry Buss where do you go from here? I hope his kids keep the franchise in the Buss family because that is what their father would have wanted. I hope his kids never sell the team.”
Earl Clark had 14 points and 16 rebounds and Steve Nash finished with 14 points and seven assists for the Lakers, who have won 10 of their last 15 games.
Nash now has 10,144 assists as he passed Johnson for sole possession of fourth place on the career list.
Howard said he was starting to feel better on the court because he is working on his conditioning.
“I am playing with lot of energy and doing the best I can on defence,” Howard said. “I been trying to get in the best shape I can. I just want to get into better shape.”
Paul Pierce scored 26 points for Boston who have now lost two straight to begin a five-game western road trip.
Boston dropped to 0-7 on the road against Western Conference opponents this season.
Los Angeles led 36-27 after the first quarter and seized a 64-55 lead at halftime before blowing the game open with a 10-2 run to begin the third quarter.
Clark finished off one burst of scoring with a dunk to make it 75-57. The Lakers biggest lead reached 22 points in the fourth quarter.