LOS ANGELES (AP) –– Dwight Howard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in helping the Los Angeles Lakers to an emotional 113-99 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night in their first game since the death of owner Jerry Buss.
Kobe Bryant added 16 points, Steve Nash and Earl Clark had 14 apiece, and Metta World Peace 12 in a game that surely would have delighted Buss, who always loved to win but especially liked beating the Celtics.
The Lakers won their most recent NBA championship — and last under Buss — in 2010, defeating the Celtics 4-3 in the finals. Buss died Monday at 80 after an 18-month struggle with cancer that had forced him to watch his team’s games on TV or an iPad instead of from his suite above the Staples Center court.
Paul Pierce scored 26 points for the Celtics, who fell to 8-17 on the road and lost their third in a row away from home. Courtney Lee added 20 points and Kevin Garnett had 12 on 6-of-14 shooting.
Howard’s performance in the Lakers’ first game since the All-Star break came on the eve of the NBA trade deadline. He has been the subject of rumors, but general manager Mitch Kupchak said this week that Howard wouldn’t be going anywhere.
He was among seven Lakers in double figures on a night when they shot 51 percent, dominated the paint 54-30 and were 22 of 31 from the free throw line for one of the most complete games they’ve played in months.
Clark had a career-high 16 rebounds, and Antawn Jamison added 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles.
The Lakers improved to 26-29 and gained a split in the season series, having avenged a 116-95 loss to the Celtics on Feb. 7 when they trailed by 32 points.
Boston trailed by nine at the end of the first two quarters before the Lakers opened up a 75-57 lead early in the third. Typical of their balanced scoring throughout the game, World Peace, Bryant, Nash, Howard and Clark each contributed baskets in the 11-2 run.
Nash had seven assists, giving him 10,144 while passing Magic Johnson for sole possession of fourth place on the career list.
The Lakers shot 51 percent in the first half and had four players in double figures, helping them to a 64-55 lead. Howard was energetic in scoring 15 points and setting screens reminiscent of his days with Orlando. Bryant had 14 points, Nash 12 and World Peace 10.
Pierce carried the Celtics with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting in the half, when they shot 49 percent.
Buss was remembered in a pregame video tribute featuring photos of him as a child all the way through him hoisting trophies marking the team’s 10 NBA championships won under his ownership. Bryant fittingly spoke on behalf of the Lakers’ players, having been acquired by the Lakers as a 17-year-old.
“He was a brilliant, incredible owner but an even better person,” Bryant said of Buss. “His innovation transcended the game and we are all, all spoiled by his vision and his drive to win year after year after year.”
There was a moment of silence in the darkened arena before the crowd broke up the quiet with chants of “Jerry, Jerry.”
A memorial service for invited guests will be held Thursday at Nokia Theatre across the street from Staples Center. Buss will be buried in a private service on Friday.
NOTES: Lakers F Pau Gasol said he hopes to get off his crutches soon and return before the end of the regular season. He had surgery on his right foot after injuring it on Feb. 5. … The Celtics signed free agent G-F Terrence Williams to a 10-day contract on Wednesday. He had been playing with Guangdong in the Chinese league, averaging 17.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 29 games. … Jeanie Buss accepted condolences on her father’s passing from numerous well-wishers stopping by her seat before the game. … Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon, longtime Lakers fans dating to the team’s days at the Forum in Inglewood, were on hand.