Dwight Howard jumping over guys. Steve Nash orchestrating everything on offense, including Kobe Bryant's easy opportunities.

If this was just the second game of the season — the spin Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni wisely has been trying to put on it as the Lakers try to climb back into the playoff picture — then things actually look pretty promising for these two new Lakers.

The Lakers powered past the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-88, on Tuesday night and now have consecutive victories to carry into a bigger, better barometer Thursday night: defending NBA champion Miami.

"It's a good opportunity really to measure ourselves," Bryant said of the Heat game — while noting how the Lakers got "torched" Friday night trying to compete with a top team in the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After circling toward the drain with six consecutive losses, the 17-21 Lakers found the sort of physical energy from Howard and perpetual creativity from Nash to make the game look right.

Bryant, meanwhile, asserted himself wonderfully with renewed activity on defense in his new role hounding the opposing point guard. He helped hold Brandon Jennings to 4-of-14 shooting and just one assist while also scoring 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting. Bryant's early passing to set up Howard's dunks empowered everyone, too.

With Bryant and Nash resting to start the fourth quarter, Howard did his thing to extend the Lakers' lead and finished with 31 points on 14-of-18 shooting. Howard, who has struggled with his activity with nerve damage in his left leg after back surgery, also had 16 of the Lakers' 46 rebounds.

Bryant praised Howard for putting aside criticism and concerns, saying Howard is playing "burden-free" the past two games.

Howard conserved his energy at times, but he was loudly talking on defense — yelling at Antawn Jamison to "Stay home!" at one point. Howard was rolling to the hoop on pick-and-roll plays with more bounce and even actively looking for the ball instead of just going through those motions.

The Bucks tried to bracket Nash with two defenders — unto itself something of a testament to what little threat Howard has posted on pick and rolls this season — but Nash still extended his dribble in his unique way and had 11 assists.