In case you haven’t heard by now, the Los Angeles Lakers staged an incredible, emotional comeback against the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. The Lakers trailed by as much as 25 points in the game, and finished the contest on a 20-0 run to pull of an improbable 108-102 road win. There were a ton of huge plays for the team on the night, but was bigger than Dwight Howard’s picture-perfect block of Hornets center Robin Lopez.
With fewer than 30 seconds remaining in the game and the Lakers ahead 104-102, New Orleans guard Eric Gordon drove deep into the lane and dumped the ball off to Lopez near the left block. The 24-year-old center gathered himself and rose up for what could have been an huge dunk, but Howard was having none of it.
The Lakers center jumped right along with Lopez and emphatically rejected the Stanford product with his left hand. Howard then calmly gathered the ball and immediately passed it to Steve Nash as coach Mike D’Antoni called timeout.
Kobe Bryant’s numbers on the night may be the story when people rehash this game on Thursday. After all, the Black Mamba poured in 42 points, dished out 12 assists, grabbed seven rebounds and essentially willed his team back from the dead. But Howard’s block on Lopez was easily the game’s biggest play.
Howard also had the kind of game that Lakers fans have expected him to turn in with regularity this season. He finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds, four blocks and three steals while basically quarterbacking the team’s stellar fourth-quarter defense from the paint.
The way they banded together and fought back on Wednesday night could be a sign that things are finally getting better in for D’Antoni’s team. If the Lakers make the playoffs this season, their insane comeback win over the Hornets on March 6 will be a game we’ll all point to as when they actually became a team, not just a collection of high-priced stars. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Howard’s block.