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Lakers 102, Jazz 84

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- After a week of hand wringing, meetings, contemplation, challenges and promises, the Los Angeles Lakers were finally ready to do something fun Friday.

Specifically, win a basketball game.

And while their 102-84 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center wasn't perfect and it certainly won't erase the misery that's been the first two months of their season, maybe, just maybe it can be a catalyst for a new beginning.

That remains to be seen, of course, and with Oklahoma City visiting Los Angeles on Sunday, the Lakers Friday fun night might be short lived.

But considering the tumultuous week they just experienced, they'll take what they can get. Namely, a convincing win over a surging opponent on a night in which their star players finally seemed to be on the same page at the same time.

And a night off from complaints about a lack of touches and roles and playing time.

Dwight Howard, back in the lineup after leaving Wednesday's game in Memphis after aggravating a shoulder injury, played contently in Mike D'Antoni's offense and was effective on both ends of the floor, scoring 17 points but also grabbing 13 rebounds and controlling the pait defensively.

Kobe Bryant played patiently and unselfishly, scoring just 14 points but dishing out 14 assists and grabbing nine rebounds.

"It was a concerted effort to force the game a little bit on my teammates," Bryant said.

Pau Gasol, coming off the bench now, added 15 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers in their first win in more than a week.

In all, five Lakers scored in double figures while defensively, the delivered one of their

"We got in some good pick and roll situations and we kept it balanced," Bryant said.

The Jazz saw its four-game winning streak come to a halt, dropping its first game against the Lakers this year after beating them in two previous meetings.

Derrick Favors had 14 points and Gordon Hayward had 13 off the bench for Utah while Al Jefferson had 12 points.

NOTES: In a season of mostly bad news, the Lakers got a bit of the good kind when Howard was cleared to play, two days after aggravating a right shoulder injury. Howard left Wednesday's game at Memphis late in the second quarter after tweaking the torn labrum in his shoulder while fighting through a pick, but was checked out by doctors in Los Angeles Thursday and given the green light to play against Utah. Howard originally suffered the injury on Jan. 4 against the Clippers and missed three games. .... Meanwhile, less than 48 hours after saying the key to the Lakers turning their season around starts with him -- but falling short of committing himself beyond this season to the Lakers -- Howard remained noncommittal about his Los Angeles future. "I want to keep my mind clear of the offseason stuff," Howard said. "I haven't even thought about it. I know what's being said. But right now, we're four games out and have an opportunity to turn this thing around. We have to stay positive." ... The Jazz had won the previous two meetings against the Lakers. ... The Lakers have played just five times with their expected starting five coming into the season -- Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Metta World-Peace -- and have lost all five.
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