- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The faces were new. The expectations were lowered. The product was better? You bet it was.
Dwight Howard? Who needs him.
Kobe Bryant? Take your time with that left leg.
Somewhere, Dr. Jerry Buss is smiling.
It may have been just game No. 1 of 82 on the schedule for these 2013-14 Los Angeles Lakers, but their effort against the Los Angeles Clippers looked much improved from last season's squad that lost by an average of 13.3 points in a four-game season series sweep a year ago to their co-tenants at Staples Center.
So improved that instead of being run off the court, they were the ones with their foot on the gas pedal all night in a 116-103 win.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni came into the season saying he could stretch out his rotation to 11 players this season, and all 11 players to get on the court against the Clippers contributed.
It was one of those "wow" nights that happen in sports every so often. And it happened against the Clippers, of all teams.
Is L.A. still a Lakers town? For a night it was, at least. Undisputed.
How it happened: The Lakers came out strong, thanks to 11 first-quarter points from Pau Gasol, and trailed by only two at the half. The Clippers quickly pushed their lead to eight, causing D'Antoni to furiously call timeout, but the Lakers were able to shrink the bubble to four going into the fourth. That's when L.A.'s bench went nutty. D'Antoni played his reserve unit of Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill the entire final period, and the Lakers blew the Clippers' starters out.
What it means: First impressions go a long way. If the Lakers' 4-4 preseason laid the foundation to rid Staples Center of the stench from last season, Tuesday's opener was like getting the place fumigated. This should buy D'Antoni and the team some faith from the Lakers faithful.
Hits: Henry scored a career-high 22 points to go with six rebounds, going 8-for-13 from the field.
Gasol finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Four other bench players reached double digits led by Farmar with 16, Meeks with 13, Hill with 12 and Chris Kaman with 10.
Steve Nash had only three points and five assists in 21 minutes.
Williams shot 1-for-5.
Stat of the game: The Lakers' bench scored 76 of the team's 114 total points. This after their bench ranked 28th in the league in points per game last season. The depth is real.
Up next: The start to the Lakers' season is like being shot out of a cannon as they head to Golden State to play the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday and follow that up with a date back home against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.
LOS ANGELES -- The faces were new. The expectations were lowered. The product was better? You bet it was.Dwight Howard? Who needs him.Kobe Bryant?