Dwight and Kobe: The partnership is growing

Kobe Bryant's triple-double was key for the Lakers, but so was the way he teamed with Dwight Howard. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US Presswire

LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant registered just the 18th triple-double of his 17-year career Sunday in the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-108 win over the Houston Rockets, but as rare as triple-dips have come for Bryant, the more remarkable sight was how in sync his game operated along with Dwight Howard.

Several of Bryant's game-high 11 assists were delivered to Howard, who scored 28 points to Bryant's 22. One of Bryant's assists to Howard came after Kobe drove to the basket and dumped it off to the big man at the last second, gift wrapping a wide-open dunk. Another came with Bryant holding the ball at the top of the key and making eye contact with Howard to signal an alley-oop lob was on its way, and the two executed the play to perfection.

"We're almost there," Howard said. "We're almost on the same page. I just tell Kobe, he's always going to attack but always just attack the basket and I'll try to clean up if you miss. We're just learning each other's game. It's going to take some time but we're doing the best we can."

Howard had the same amount of shots as Bryant (18) and it was the fourth time in the Lakers' 10 games this season that he outscored Bryant, who happened to be the league's leading scorer coming into Sunday. The Lakers' are 3-1 in those games.

"We just have to learn how to work together," Howard said. "Both of us want to score and dominate our opponents and we just have to find a way to do it together to throw the defense off, play games with them and we're getting better at it. We've only been together for a couple months, so, once we have this system down pat and the way we want to play with each other, we'll be fine."

Howard is correct to point out the relative newness of his partnership with Bryant. Lest we forget how icy their relationship became last season when Bryant suggested Howard come to L.A. and be third in command behind him and Pau Gasol to get a ring. That never appealed to Howard, who is smack dab in the middle of his prime as a nine-year veteran about to turn 27 next month.

Yet, here they are working together without a hitch, with their 1-2 combo actually being one of the few things that has gone pretty smoothly through the Lakers' 5-5 start.

"Teams have to make a decision," Bryant said when asked about his two-man game with Howard. "When I'm coming to the basket, I'm in the teeth of the defense, they have to make a choice. Either they're going to give me a shot, or they're going to give up the roll or they're going to give up the big kind of rolling up [the lane] or they have to give up the opposite corner. So, they got to make a choice."

Bryant, to his credit, has chosen to involve Howard from the start and even heaped praise on the All-Star center Sunday.

"It makes the game very easy," Bryant said of playing alongside No. 12. "It puts a lot of pressure on the defense when he's rolling to the basket, and you can always dump the ball into him in the post because he's a much better post player than people give him credit for. It just makes it easier for everybody."

As for that triple-double, Bryant didn't think much of it.

"I'm a scorer, I'm not a triple-double player," Bryant said.

He is, however, beginning to embrace the Lakers' double threat that he and Howard present.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.