The big news Wednesday night was that the Los Angeles Lakers earned the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference playoffs with a 99-95 overtime win against the Houston Rockets. But a story that largely went under the radar was that Lakers center Dwight Howard became the youngest player in NBA history to notch 9,000 rebounds.
The 27-year-old grabbed his 9,000th rebound in the first quarter, reaching the milestone 14 days faster than Wilt Chamberlain. Howard does have a bit of an advantage over the competition though, considering he jumped straight to the NBA from high school. Howard accomplished the feat at 27 years and 130 days old, while Chamberlain was 27 years and 144 days old. Bill Russell now sits in third place, he was 27 years and 357 days old when he reached 9,000 boards.
When only considering games played, Howard was the 13th fastest to the mark, as it took him 697 contests to reach it.
Still, it’s an impressive feather in Howard’s cap. Despite struggling through his recovery from back surgery all season, the seven-time All-Star managed to lead the NBA in rebounds per game (12.4) and defensive rebounds per game (9.1). The 2012-13 season marked the fifth occasion he has topped the NBA in rebounds.
Howard capped off the regular season by scoring 16 points and grabbing 18 rebounds against the Rockets. But most importantly for the Lakers, their prized center looked dominant defensively on Wednesday night. His rim protection on the defensive end almost single-handedly slowed down Houston’s high-powered offense. He finished the game with four blocks and three steals.
With Kobe Bryant done for the year thanks to a ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard and fellow big man Pau Gasol must step up if the Lakers want to survive at all in the playoffs. Gasol was a difference-maker Wednesday night as well, as he busted out a perfectly-timed triple-double. He finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists.
Los Angeles must now rely heavily on its twin towers and how Steve Nash can find his way back onto the court if the team hopes to challenge the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.