Los Angeles, CA – In their first game since the death of Jerry Buss, it was only appropriate that the Los Angeles Lakers took the floor against a storied rival.
And it was only fitting that the Lakers walked off the court Wednesday with a 113-99 win over the Boston Celtics.
"I'm glad we were able to beat Dr. Buss' arch-rival tonight," Lakers guard Steve Nash said.
Buss, who was 80 years old, passed away Monday due to kidney failure. According to a statement released by the family through the Lakers, Buss had been hospitalized much of the past 18 months.
A video tribute of the former charismatic and beloved owner was shown and Kobe Bryant addressed the crowd prior to the contest. A memorial service for Buss will be held Thursday at Nokia Theatre across the Staples Center. The players will wear a circular purple patch with the gold initials "JB" on their jerseys for the remainder of the season.
Buss purchased the Lakers, as well as the NHL's Kings and the Forum, in 1979 from Jack Kent Cooke for a reported $67 million. The Lakers have won 10 of their 16 NBA titles under Buss' stewardship, but are still one championship behind the Celtics. The two combatants have matched up five times in the Finals since 1980, with Los Angeles prevailing in three of those series, most recently in 2010.
Buss was more than just a figurehead of the Lakers and leaves behind a winning legacy. He was a pioneer to the Lakers' 1980s' "Showtime" days under the likes of Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Buss' latest eye-popping move was acquiring center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in a four-team deal that sent two-time NBA champion big man Andrew Bynum to the Philadelphia 76ers. So far Howard hasn't meshed with Bryant, although the big man came through with a 24-point, 12-rebound effort Wednesday.
Bryant added 16 points and seven assists for Los Angeles, which has won 10 of the last 15 meetings in this series. Earl Clark had 14 points and 16 boards in the triumph.
"When we move the ball we're pretty good," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "It's all mental and winning will help, but a lot of it is ball movement and we're doing better."
The Celtics have lost back-to-back tilts to begin a five-game western trek. Boston, which had won eight of its last nine prior to the road trip, fell to 0-7 on the road against Western Conference opponents this season.
"We just didn't have it tonight," Boston coach Doc Rivers admitted. "Our offense was awful and we're not used to giving up that many points. It was just a bad night."
Paul Pierce netted 26 points in defeat.
The Lakers led 36-27 after a quarter of play and took a 64-55 advantage into the break before blowing the game open with a 10-2 run to begin the third.
Clark capped the burst with a dunk to make it 75-57. The Lakers took a 90-76 edge after three and their margin reached its apex at 22 in the final frame.
Nash surpassed Johnson for fourth place on the all-time assists list ... Los Angeles is 9-4 over its last 13 games ... The Lakers held a 54-30 points in the paint advantage.