- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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"The way you got to approach it is just as a tribute to him to go out and play as hard as you can and turn the emotion into something positive," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "It will be a nice tribute on a sad occasion."
It was an important win for L.A., and not just because of the Buss connection or because it avenged the 21-point beatdown they suffered in Beantown at the beginning of the month. The victory got the Lakers out of the gate on the right foot after the All-Star break.
D'Antoni put the pressure on his team Tuesday, proclaiming they would have to go at least 20-8 in the final stretch of the season to realize their goal of making the playoffs.
They're 1-0 so far. Pulling off a 19-8 record the rest of the way is no sure bet, but it's a heck of a lot more believable than them going 20-7 had they laid an egg Wednesday.
How it happened: L.A. came out sharp, scoring 36 points in the first quarter on 52.2 percent shooting from the field. They kept the effort up all night, leading by as many as 22 and earning a standing ovation as they left the court at the end of the game.
What it means: If Howard truly is the future of the Lakers' franchise, as general manager Mitch Kupchak said Wednesday morning, then maybe the purple and gold will be in better shape than some fans thought. Howard has repeatedly said all that matters for him and for his team is right now, and he finally played as if there were no tomorrow. The All-Star center scored 12 of his team-high 24 points (on 10-for-13 shooting) in the first quarter and added 12 rebounds and a block. If he can make this a nightly performance, Kupchak will have good reason for wanting him to stick around.
Hits: Earl Clark grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with his 14 points.
Clark was one of seven Lakers players to score in double-digits.
Steve Nash dished out seven assists, passing Lakers legend Magic Johnson for fourth on the NBA's all-time assist list, giving him 10,144 for his career.
Misses: Bryant picked up his 12th technical foul of the season. Should that total reach 16, Bryant would have to serve a one-game suspension. There are 27 games left in the regular season after Wednesday.
Stat of the night: L.A. outscored Boston 54-30 on points in the paint.
What's next: The Lakers will have a brief practice Thursday before attending Buss' funeral as a team in the afternoon at Nokia Theatre. Their next game is Friday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.