Metta World Peace goes up for a reverse layup. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Mike D'Antoni didn't make his much-awaited Lakers debut. His offense, however, was there for all to see.
The Lakers rolled to a 119-108 victory Sunday over the Houston Rockets, amassing stats that were part video game, part fantasy league, all entertainment.
The Princeton offense couldn't have seemed further in the past after the younger, less-refined cousin of Showtime stepped into Staples Center.
The Lakers had 98 points after the third quarter, what would have been a giddily celebrated overall total for them just two weeks ago.
Kobe Bryant had his 18th career triple-double, Dwight Howard had 28 points and the only boos came when Rockets forward Greg Smith made a free throw with 2:49 to play.
It gave Houston 100 points. It also ended the free taco promotion for the night. The Lakers led by 16 at the time. Boo who? Boo why?
Bryant welcomed the arrival of D'Antoni last week, as did Steve Nash, all too familiar with the premise of D'Antoni's fun-and-gun style from their years together with the Phoenix Suns.
Howard, however, took a more conservative approach. He's seen a lot to like in only two games.
"Am I enjoying it?" he said. "For me not being in shape, yeah. We're doing a lot of running, a lot of screening. . . . We're just trying to have fun and win games."
After taking 13 rebounds and blocking three shots, Howard insisted he still wasn't feeling quite himself since back surgery in April. He's getting there, though. Quickly.
The Lakers (5-5) hit the .500 mark for the first time this season without some important pieces.
D'Antoni sat out his second game because he wasn't quite ready to return from recent knee-replacement surgery. Nash was also sidelined, as was backup point guard Steve Blake, meaning Bryant took over point-guard duties on a majority of possessions.
He had 22 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. He even got in touch with his inner Magic Johnson, moving James Harden out of the way by faking a pass on a third-quarter drive and completing the play by scoring over center Omer Asik.
On another possession, Bryant pump-faked Terrence Jones into the air, drew the foul and drilled a 22-footer from the right side.
Toward the end, with the win more than an obvious conclusion, Howard one-handed a dunk off Bryant's lob.
The feel-good story even extended to assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who improved to 4-1 since taking over game responsibilities after Mike Brown was fired Nov. 9. Bickerstaff was all but guaranteed a spot on D'Antoni's coaching staff.
"Unless he loses tonight," D'Antoni joked before tipoff. "No pressure."
There really couldn't be any when Metta World Peace took a rebound in the first quarter, dribbled down court, kept dribbling, then dribbled some more and ended up scoring on a finger roll.
Pau Gasol scored his 15,000th career point with a mid-range jump shot in the third quarter and Darius Morris had a career-high 12 points with five assists, including a fastbreak pass to Howard for a dunk.
"That was my James Worthy for the night," Howard said. "Run the floor and get an easy dunk."
Rockets guard Jeremy Lin had a quiet scoring night (five points) but it didn't prevent him from being a spokesman for D'Antoni's offense.
"There is so much space, there is so much freedom," said Lin, who played for D'Antoni last season in New York. "Someone is going to get a good shot most of the time."
The Lakers lost last year's season series to the Rockets for the first time since 1996-97. It's easy to think it won't happen again this time.