Dwight Howard dunks over Warriors guard Stephen Curry. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
The crowd at Staples Center broke out its first chant of "We Want Phil" during the third quarter of the Lakers' 101-77 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday, though there's no way to know whether Phil Jackson heard it or whether Lakers executives will make that wish come true as they begin searching for Mike Brown's successor as the team's coach.
"Who is Phil?" said assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who agreed to step in as the Lakers' interim coach Friday morning.
Enjoying his own joke, Bickerstaff smiled. "I can understand why," he said of the chants. "The guy's got the rings."
While speculation swirls about the Lakers' next coaching hire, a tumultuous day ended with their second win in six games this season. If the Lakers' performance wasn't an artistic triumph — they shot 40 % from the floor — the result and the energy they displayed were dramatically improved over their first five games, which generated enough sloppiness and uncertainty to cost Brown his job.
"It was great," backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks said of playing for Bickerstaff. "He's been in this league a long time so everybody respects him. We wanted to play hard for him and get him his first win."
The Lakers showed some improvements on defense, holding Golden State (3-3) to 33.7% shooting and winning the rebounding battle, 58-47. Before Friday's game the Lakers had ranked 19th in the NBA in points allowed, with opponents averaging 98.8 points per game.
Kobe Bryant led both teams with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting and contributed seven of the Lakers' 22 assists on their 36 field goals. An energized Pau Gasol scored 14 points and pulled down a season-high 16 rebounds, and reserves Darius Morris and Jordan Hill had season highs of 10 and 14 points, respectively.
Bickerstaff said before the game he had not considered whether he would stay on beyond Friday because he was focused on simplifying the game and getting a win. He succeeded on both counts, though the Warriors shot so poorly that it's tough to say how much of a difference Bickerstaff's presence made.
Bickerstaff credited Brown's final practice on Thursday for preparing the Lakers to play well Friday. "And tonight we recognized mismatches and went to them and there were some results, and that's always important," he said.
But he was unhappy with their 16 turnovers, saying a dozen should be their limit.
An improved defensive effort and a solid performance from their bench, which has been a weakness during the early weeks of the season, allowed the Lakers to take control of the game in the second quarter. The 35-31 lead they took midway through the second quarter was built on 17 points from their reserves.
The Warriors pulled within two points in the third quarter, but Bryant took charge as the Lakers went on a 10-0 run. He went to the bench, but the lead grew to 72-55 by the end of the third quarter and eventually hit 28.
The fourth quarter was a romp for the Lakers, inspiring fans to repeat their "We want Phil" cheers. They later chanted, "We want tacos" as the Lakers neared and then topped 100 points, and they got satisfaction on that score. Whether they'll also get Jackson should become clear soon.