If nothing else, Lakers fans got to boo Dwight Howard. And see Kobe Bryant’s first dunk this season.
People could pocket their ticket stub and maybe some memories from a game that was bizarrely charged for three quarters before the Houston Rockets pulled away for a 107-87 victory Thursday at Staples Center.
It’ll probably be that way the rest of the season. Wins and losses won’t mean as much as Bryant stat lines and satisfied ticket-holders.
His dunk early in the third quarter was impressive. He drove past Trevor Ariza, put the ball in his right hand and soared over Rockets power forward Clint Capela.
“It was pretty impressive for a 37-year-old,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “After he dunked it, it was kind of like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ He always just lays it up in practice.”
It was Bryant’s first dunk since he sustained a torn rotator cuff on a driving slam against New Orleans last January.
But the crowd quieted halfway through the fourth quarter, the Lakers quickly finding themselves down 14 after a slew of turnovers.
Reality had returned after Bryant’s 10-point third quarter. The Lakers fell to 4-22.
Make no mistake, it’s still Bryant’s show, whether he’s on target or not, the latter more the norm these days.
The Bryant who carelessly hoisted, and missed, three-point shot after three-point shot was replaced last week by a more engaged, spry version.
He had 22 points on nine-for-16 shooting against Houston, adding eight rebounds and three assists in front of a celebrity-infused crowd, a rarity this season, that included Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg, Sylvester Stallone and Lakers owner Jeanie Buss.
Bryant later unfurled a hesitation move against Ariza, catching him off guard by driving, stopping and driving again before finishing with a shot off the glass.
This was Bryant from ... name your year, 2009? 2010? Maybe 2001? Not quite.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, left, drives around Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant dunks over Houston’s Clint Capela during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Lakers' Julius Randle (30) reacts as he loses the ball out of bounds between Rockets’ Terrence Jones (6) and Donatas Motiejunas (20) during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, right, battles Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza for the loose ball during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
Lakers’ Julius Randle attempts a layup between Rcokets’ Dwight Howard (12) and Clint Capela (15) as Roy Hibbert (17) looks on during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, left, and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard chat during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
The Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard, left, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in the first half of a game on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.(Paul Buck / EPA)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, right, works against Houston Rockets’ Trevor Ariza in first half on Thursday.(PAUL BUCK / EPA)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant watches during the second half against the Houston Rockets on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
Rockets center Dwight Howard slips past Lakers center Roy Hibbert while trying to score in the first half Thursday night.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is trapped by Rockets forwards Trevor Ariza, left, and Clint Capela during the first half.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Rockets guard James Harden passes around Lakers center Roy Hibbert during the first half Thursday night.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Rockets guard James Harden is fouled by Lakers center Roy Hibbert during a game on Dec. 17.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tracks down a loose ball ahead of Rockets forward Trevor Ariza during the first half.(Harry How / Getty Images)
He was shooting 30.2% as of last week but countered with 54% over the last four games.
There were still imperfections in his game Thursday. His defense wasn’t NBA grade and he made two of seven free throws.
As for the other Lakers, Julius Randle had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Russell stumbled with only two points on one-for-nine accuracy.
James Harden was far less accurate than Bryant (seven for 24 from the field), but he totaled 25 points with nine free throws.
Howard drew boos from we-still-remember fans whenever he touched the ball. He made only three of 10 shots but finished with 16 points after the Lakers employed the Hack-a-Howard in the fourth quarter. He made 10 of 18 from the line for Houston (13-14).
There was still Bryant’s dunk, whatever it meant with the backdrop of a team careening toward its worst record ever.
“I felt springy. No idea where it came from, but it was there,” Bryant said. “Can’t really explain it.”
Just the latest inexplicable part of a season that will end April 13.