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Lakers pay tribute to Dr. Jerry Buss

02/21/2013 10:44 AM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Members of the Lakers gather during a memorial for late owner Jerry Buss before playing the Celtics.(AP)
Wednesday night was a very emotional evening in Los Angeles. It was the first game that the Los Angeles Lakers played after the passing of their beloved owner, Jerry Buss. It was fitting that the opponent was the Lakers' biggest rival, the Boston Celtics.

The game began in a very somber manner. His empty seat in the owner's box had a spotlight on it and the inscription ''R.I.P. Dr. Buss'' was written on the board inside the Lakers locker room.

Dr. Buss won 10 NBA Championships and went to 16 Finals as the owner of the Lakers since purchasing the franchise in 1979. The Lakers and Buss faced the Celtics five times over that span in the Finals with Los Angeles winning three championships. The Lakers did their late owner proud once again on Wednesday, defeating the Celtics, 113-99.

''It was very fitting,'' Kobe Bryant said. ''You look at all the trophies, parades and support this team has; that all came from one man. The impact is a global one.''

Buss died Monday at 80 after an 18-month struggle with cancer. His pride and joy was attending Lakers games and during his health battle, he was very limited in the number of games he could attend, mostly watching games from home. The Lakers were powered by Dr. Buss's last big acquisition, Dwight Howard, who led the team with 24 points and 12 rebounds, while one of the greatest players in his tenure, Bryant, added 16 points.

''I was thinking about it all day, getting this win for Dr. Buss,'' Howard said. ''We came out with a lot of energy, a lot of intensity. We have to keep working every day in practice to get better and hopefully this season can happen for us.''

Paul Pierce, who was a very big part of the recent Lakers-Celtics rivalry, scored 26 points in Boston's loss, and understood and appreciated the emotions of the evening.

''We've been in that situation with Red Auerbach, and so many other emotional games; teams are very dangerous, especially in their home building,'' Pierce said. ''You take a lot of pride in protecting that and going out and getting that first win. You could see it in their eyes. I saw it in Kobe's eyes. He was really emotional coming out and he wanted this game bad. We understood that.''

The Lakers, who are having a very disappointing season, much like the Celtics, improved to 26-29 and gained a split in the season series with Boston

A memorial service for invited guests will be held Thursday at Nokia Theatre across the street from Staples Center.

Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES

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