They were a dynamic duo in their own right for the Lakers, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard putting forth a heavyweight effort at the center spot and making the team that more potent because of their production.
They combined to score 23 points on 11-for-14 shooting. They combined for 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
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Whether being physical or dunking or just overwhelming the Phoenix Suns during their time on the court Tuesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena, McGee and Howard were a force during the Lakers’ tough 123-115 victory.
“That’s what we love,” LeBron James said about the play of the two active big men. “We’ve got a two-headed monster at our center spot. It’s a league now where guys don’t play the big five as much, but we do. And our big fives are extremely good, extremely athletic, extremely physical and extremely smart as well. So to have that effort that they gave tonight …
“It started with JaVale, and Dwight gave his great minutes as well, so it was perfect.”
McGee mentioned that he “only played two minutes and 57 seconds in the first half because I got in foul trouble.”
But in the third quarter, McGee put his stamp on the game, scoring all 11 of his season-high points in 7:50.
He made all five of his shots. He also had three rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot.
When it was Howard’s turn, he had 12 points on six-for-nine shooting, nine rebounds, one assist and one block.
“When we’re out there rebounding and getting easy buckets and protecting the rim, it’s just like one combined ultimate big, I feel like,” McGee said. “It’s a blessing, I guess.”
“JaVale has been playing unbelievable basketball,” Howard said. “He’s done a great job of just being big, blocking shots, making it tough for guys to be in the paint. Then on the offensive end, seems like he can just tiptoe and dunk the ball. When he gets the ball around the basket, he’s doing a great job.”
Howard was in the mix for the Lakers in the pivotal fourth quarter.
He cut to the basket and scored on a dunk, giving the Lakers a 101-99 lead.
A few minutes later, Howard grabbed a missed James shot and scored on a put-back while being fouled.
Howard missed the free throw, but his physical play and rebounding gave the Lakers a 106-102 lead against a determined Suns team.
“I’m just trying to get better every game,” Howard said. “Sitting on the bench and being able to watch the flow of the game. When I come in the game, I just try to bring some energy and try to see what our team needs at times.”
They are out to prove that the center spot has not become extinct in today’s small-ball NBA.
On nights like Tuesday, when McGee and Howard are dominating the position, the two big men hope that proves their point.
“I feel like eventually during the season teams are going to have to adjust to us and go big rather than the Golden State mind-set when they had their reign of everybody trying to go small,” McGee said. “I feel like we have the ability to make everybody have to go big for us. I feel like we’re there at this point.”