Rockets, Howard beat Lakers 134-108 for 8th straight win
LOS ANGELES — There was no warm welcome back. No video montage of highlights that brought back the good old days.
That didn’t keep Dwight Howard from thoroughly enjoying his first road game against the team he left as a free agent after one tumultuous season.
Howard had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Houston Rockets in 134-108 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night that extended the Rockets’ winning streak to eight games.
“We’re always going to have fun when we’re playing basketball. We love what we’re doing,” Howard said. “We’re playing great, and we just want to have as much fun as possible.”
The streak is Houston’s longest since a franchise-record, 22-game run in 2007-08 under Rick Adelman. James Harden scored 11 of his 29 points in the final 1:25 of the third quarter and added 11 assists.
Wesley Johnson scored 24 points for Los Angeles, and Kendall Marshall had 20 points and 16 assists. The injury-ravaged Lakers remained tied for last place in the Western Conference with Sacramento at 18-36.
“The Lakers have always found a way to get back to the top, and they will one day. But I can’t focus on the Lakers,” Howard said. “My focus is on the Rockets and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
It was Howard’s third game against the Lakers since leaving the organization to sign a four-year, $88 million contract with the Rockets in July. Los Angeles offered the eight-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year a five-year, $118 million deal to stay.
“He’s having a great year there, but I felt he did the same thing here,” Lakers guard Jodie Meeks said. “The numbers are almost identical. He had a pretty good year last year — and for whatever reason, some people didn’t think so.”
Howard played 76 games last season, averaging 17.1 points and a league-best 12.4 rebounds despite residual pain from back surgery — compounded by a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
Howard’s only season in Tinseltown ended with a whimper — a four-game sweep by San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs, when he was ejected from what would turn out to be his final game as a Laker for protesting a non-call.
The sellout crowd booed Howard every time he touched the ball. It began during warm-ups about 45 minutes before the game, after a few of his ex-teammates came over to say hello at midcourt. The fans then drowned out public address announcer Lawrence Tanter before he could get Howard’s name out of his mouth during the introductions.
Howard received a technical foul just 78 seconds into the game after dunking on Chris Kaman.
“I think it was more emotion than anything,” Howard said. “I don’t know if the ref thought I was talking to Kaman, but one of my friends was sitting courtside and I was just looking at him and having some fun. It wasn’t nothing toward the Lakers or any of their guys. I was just talking trash to one of my friends.”
Less than 90 minutes before tipoff, the Lakers dealt guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for reserve guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. Coach Mike D’Antoni was still talking about Blake in the present tense during his pregame session with reporters before the deal was consummated, and the trade left him with only eight players in uniform and his 28th different starting lineup due to injuries to Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Xavier Henry and Nick Young.
Jordan Farmar returned to the lineup after missing four games because of a sore hamstring, and Meeks was back in action after sitting out five games with a sprained right ankle.
Harden helped the Rockets build a 64-43 halftime lead with 15 points in the first game for both teams following the All-Star break. Howard added 14 points and 10 rebounds — the 10th time this season that he had a double-double by halftime.
TIMBERWOLVES 104, PACERS 91
MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love had 42 points and 16 rebounds, and Ricky Rubio added a career-high 17 assists as the Timberwolves beat Paul George and the Pacers.
J.J. Barea scored 12 points off the bench as the Wolves took control early against the Eastern Conference leaders.
George led Indiana with 35 points, but managed just two in the fourth quarter as the Pacers lost for the third time in five games, never once taking a lead.
It was Love’s eighth straight game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, the longest streak since Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the same feat Jan. 3-19, 2005. Love has an NBA-best 14 games with 30 points and 10 rebounds this season.
SPURS 111, TRAIL BLAZERS 109
PORTLAND, Ore. — Patty Mills came off the bench to score 29 points, Marco Belinelli hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining and San Antonio defeated Portland in a game between short-handed teams.
Mills scored 24 points during the second half to lead the Spurs, who rested starters Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
Belinelli had 20 points and Manu Ginobili 16 for San Antonio, which also sat Kawhi Leonard with an injured right hand.
Damian Lillard scored 31 points, Mo Williams added 19 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Portland, which played without LaMarcus Aldridge. The Trail Blazers’ leading scorer and rebounder is out with a groin injury.
Both teams had six players score in double figures.
BULLS 94, RAPTORS 92
TORONTO — Carlos Boozer scored 20 points, D.J. Augustin had 19 against his former team and Chicago edged Toronto to win its fourth straight game.
Kirk Hinrich scored 19 points, Jimmy Butler had 16 and Taj Gibson fouled out with 10 as the Bulls won for the fifth time in six games and halted Toronto’s winning streak at three. Joakim Noah had eight points and 13 assists for the Bulls.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 32 points but had a couple key misses at the end. Kyle Lowry fouled out with 16 points and seven assists.
Augustin, waived by Toronto in December, hit two 3-pointers early in the third as Chicago took a 76-66 lead at 9:34.
WARRIORS 101, KINGS 92
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — David Lee had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Klay Thompson scored 18 points and Golden State held off Sacramento in a game both teams played short-handed.
Stephen Curry added 13 points and eight assists for the Warriors in the first game following the All-Star break for each team. Golden State is 3-0 against Sacramento this season.
With both centers out with injuries and a shorter roster from trades each team made earlier in the day, the depth of the Warriors was just too much for the Kings to overcome.
Isaiah Thomas had 26 points and seven assists, and Travis Outlaw scored 18 points for a Sacramento team that’s headed for an eighth straight losing season.
CAVALIERS 101, MAGIC 93
CLEVELAND — Kyrie Irving scored 22 points and Cleveland won its sixth straight by beating Orlando.
Irving, chosen MVP of the NBA All-Star game Sunday, paced a balanced offense that extended the Cavaliers’ longest winning streak since they won eight in a row in March 2010. That was LeBron James’ final season in Cleveland.
Luol Deng scored 17 points, while Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson each added 16 for Cleveland.
Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 23 points. The Magic have lost 14 consecutive road games and are an NBA-worst 3-25 away from home.
The Cavaliers built an 18-point lead in the first quarter that was trimmed to two early in the fourth.
BOBCATS 116, PISTONS 98
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Al Jefferson scored 29 points, Kemba Walker had 24 points and a career-high 16 assists, and Charlotte defeated Detroit for the second straight night.
The win gave the Bobcats (25-30) a sweep of the three-game season series and a 2½-game lead over the Pistons in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
It was Walker’s best all-around game since returning from a sprained ankle.
Jefferson, who had 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in Tuesday’s win at Detroit, went 12 of 20 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. He has scored at least 20 points in 16 of the last 18 games.
Brandon Jennings had 20 points for Detroit before being ejected with 1:13 left after picking up his second technical foul. The Pistons have lost nine of 14.
NETS 105, JAZZ 99
SALT LAKE CITY — Joe Johnson scored 27 points, Andray Blatche had 25 and Brooklyn beat the Jazz for the Nets’ first win in Utah since 2008.
Deron Williams added 19 points and seven assists. His 3-pointer with 2:11 remaining gave the Nets their largest lead of the game.
Brooklyn snapped a three-game road losing skid. The surging Nets have won five of their last seven overall.
Reserve guard Alec Burks led the Jazz with 23 points and Enes Kanter, starting in place of Derrick Favors (hip), had 18 points and 10 rebounds. But the Jazz wasted a 13-point, third-quarter lead and a chance to extend their winning streak to a season-best four games.
WIZARDS 114, HAWKS 97
ATLANTA — John Wall scored 21 points and Washington recovered to beat reeling Atlanta after almost blowing a 20-point lead.
Paul Millsap had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Elton Brand, a fill-in starter at center, had 20 points and 11 boards for the Hawks, who have lost seven straight.
Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal each scored 19 for the Wizards, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Washington ended an 11-game skid in Atlanta, winning for the first time since Jan. 11, 2008.
The Hawks, who trailed by 20 in the first half, made a third-quarter charge to twice cut the deficit to one.
KNICKS 98, PELICANS 91
NEW ORLEANS — Carmelo Anthony capped a 42-point performance with three clutch baskets in the last two minutes, and New York snapped a three-game skid with a victory over New Orleans.
A night after losing at Memphis, New York blew a 13-point, fourth-quarter lead before Anthony, coming off a 30-point outing in the All-Star game in the same arena Sunday, took over by hitting a pair of pull-up jumpers from the left side of the lane. He hit the first of them over Pelicans All-Star Anthony Davis, who blocked five shots in the game, and the second over Luke Babbitt.
J.R. Smith had 19 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 16 for New York, which lost Iman Shumpert to a sprained left knee in the third quarter. Tyson Chandler had 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Eric Gordon scored 28 for the Pelicans, but was shut out in the fourth quarter. Davis had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
SUNS 100, CELTICS 94
PHOENIX — Markieff Morris scored 18 points to lead six Phoenix players in double figures against Boston.
Goran Dragic and Gerald Green added 17 points apiece for the Suns. Channing Frye scored 15, among them a crucial 3-pointer with 1:20 left.
Markieff’s twin brother, Marcus, scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half, including a 32-footer at the third-quarter buzzer. P.J. Tucker had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Suns, who took the lead for good with a 17-0 second-half run, then used free throws to hold off the Celtics at the end.
Rajon Rondo had 18 points and 10 assists for the Celtics. Brandon Bass also scored 18 and Jeff Green added 17.
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