Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Sunday preseason contest against Sacramento, with Dwight Howard expected to make his debut, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Gasol and Howard
Kings: I. Thomas, M. Thornton, J. Johnson, T. Robinson, D. Cousins
10:40 Just over a minute into his debut in purple and gold, Dwight Howard had already thrown down an alley-oop dunk off Pau Gasol’s lob from the high post and kicked out a pass for Kobe Bryant’s three-pointer. Lakers fans were quite entertained. There was something special even from the starting line ups, just hearing “World Peace,” “Gasol,” “Howard,” “Nash” and “Bryant” from PA legend Lawrence Tanter.
0:00 With Howard (four points, two boards, two blocks) making his presence felt on both ends, L.A. led by as many as seven before the Kings’ bench unit trimmed six points off the lead, 29-28 after one. Gasol had six points and Bryant seven, the Spaniard dunking emphatically after beating Cousins off the dribble at one point, as the Lakers made 9 of 15 shots (60 percent). Also of note: the Kings committed nine fouls trying to deal with L.A.’s offense. Expect a lot of free throws this season, ladies and gents.
5:59 Halfway through the second half, the starters had all returned to try and reclaim the lead, with Nash converting a tough driving bank shot that tied it at 39. L.A. looked brilliant at times and disorganized at others, as we remember it’s the first time the starting five had played against a live opponent, and the bench rotation had been close to intact (Jordan Hill was still out while recovering from a herniated disc in his back). It’ll take a bit of time…
0:00 … Or not? LAL looked fantastic in the final six minutes of the period, pushing their lead up to as many as 11 (55-44) when World Peace hit a contested three-pointer. Howard was everywhere, hammering home his second alley-oop (this time from Kobe), blocking his third shot and putting back a Kobe miss for his sixth rebound before matching Bryant’s 11 points by making an and-1 free throw. Furthermore, Howard took a hard fall after being shoved from behind on that put-back (Cousins), but popped right up.
8:40 The first half magic from LAL’s starters vanished quickly, a 12-0 run capped by a Tyreke Evans and-1 that followed a ridiculous put-back dunk from rookie Thomas Robinson, catapulting himself over Howard. Bryant’s two free throws snapped the run, L.A.’s lead at 61-58. A few moments later, Nash got tangled up in the backcourt and tweaked his ankle, but he played on and ended up being fine (head trainer Gary Vitti re-taped him in the locker room and Nash returned to the floor).
0:32.4 After a Gasol dunk and Steve Blake three pushed L.A.’s lead back to seven, the Kings reeled off a quick 9-0 burst to take a 74-72 lead out of the third quarter. Here we remember that the Lakers are installing a new offense and still figuring out defensive rotations, the team looking pretty disorganized in the final moments. Regardless, the coaching staff won’t be happy with twice allowing Sacramento right back into the mix.
8:25 With Nash and Howard checking back in (alongside Ebanks, Jamison and Meeks) and L.A. trailing 80-75, the first offensive action was a powerful Howard dunk, and his defensive board on the other end gave him a double-double (17 and 10 plus four blocks).
0:00 The starters got a three-point lead when Gasol hit two free throws with 1:43 to play, but quickly lost it when Cousins hit back-to-back shots, and Howard didn’t get a call going up to the rim on the previous play. Down one with 33 seconds left, Nash got a good look in the paint, but rimmed out. After two Jimmer Fredette free throws, Bryant then just missed a game-tying three, and Sacramento added free throws late to take a 99-92 victory out of the building. There were some good moments, but the Lakers clearly need a bit more time to gel, having just gotten Howard into the line up. But the big man did look excellent: 19 points, 12 boards, four blocks, two assists and five turnovers in 33 minutes. Up next are the Clippers on Wednesday. See you there.