It was anything but a warm welcome back for Dwight Howard in his first game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, but it didn’t appear to bother him as he lead the Houston Rockets to a 134-108 over his former team.
Howard was booed each time he touched the ball, but that did not stop him as he recorded his 36th double-double of the season with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
“I think it got everybody hyped tonight and my teammates, the first thing they said was that they wanted to win this game for me,” Howard said of the boos. “So I just wanted to go out there and set the tone and I’m just happy we got the win.”
The Lakers’ woes at home continued as they dropped a franchise-record eighth straight home game and remained tied for the worst record (18-36) in the Western Conference with the Sacramento Kings.
“Well I think so,” Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni said of Howard’s play with an extra “punch” on Wednesday night. “I think he came out, and wanted to make a statement. He’s good and he played well.”
Howard scored Houston’s first six points of the game on the way to eight points and six rebounds in the opening quarter for him. Los Angeles allowed the Rockets to shoot 45 percent from the field and finish the quarter on a 11-2 run to give them a 32-22 lead.
The second quarter did not bode well for the Lakers as Houston once again scored 32 points behind eight points from James Harden and ended the quarter on another big run as they outscored Los Angeles 16-3 in the final four minutes of the quarter.
This also included the Rockets shooting 50 percent from the field and Howard recording a double-double for the game midway through the second quarter.
As for the Lakers, Wesley Johnson was one of the few bright spots as he scored 10 of his 15 first half points in the second quarter and was the only player on the team in double-figures at halftime.
It was smooth sailing for Howard and the Rockets in the second half as they extended their lead to as much as 36 points in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, Harden caught fire as he scored 14 of his game-high 29 points that included going 4-of-4 from beyond the arc and scoring Houston’s last eight points scored in the quarter.
“They had a lot of second chance points, offensive rebounds, transitions, there is a lot that you can name,” Johnson said, whose 24 points on Wednesday marked the sixth time in the last seven games that he recorded 15 points or more. “They had a lot of open shots. We weren’t rotating like we should have been. We could go down the list, it just wasn’t our night.”
The Rockets had seven players in double-figures to go along with scoring a season-high 134 points. Houston also extended their current win streak to a season-high eight-straight wins.
It was also a deflating game that had a strange feel to start with as point guard Steve Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors just an hour prior to tip-off, which to D’Antoni had an major effect on the play of the team on Wednesday night.
“We are just playing undermanned right now,” D’Antoni said. “Obviously you lose Steve Blake and you got to do things. You got to retool and management will do that. We just got to keep playing hard. Pau (Gasol) will be back Friday. They got nothing to hang their heads about. They are playing hard as they could play.”
Jordan Farmar, who was in his first game back since Feb. 5, also expressed similar sentiments that the loss of Blake hurt the team’s morale heading into the game.
“Absolutely,” Farmar said, who scored nine points with four assists in 20 minutes played, “Everyone felt deflated. You don’t want to see anybody go and like that right before the game when he was getting ready with his pregame ritual and have to go home. It’s tough but it is what it is. “
Farmar, Meeks Return
Despite suffering a blowout loss, the Lakers did have some good on the floor as both Farmar and Jodie Meeks made their return to the court on Wednesday night.
Meeks made the start for Los Angeles as he scored 19 points in 34 minutes played, which marked his 16th straight game in double-figures.
“It was fine, it’s going to be sore,” Meeks said of his right ankle. “Everyone at this point in the season is a little hurt. As long as I can put a shoe on and go there and help them, the I’m going to play.”
Farmar, who has missed the last four games, had his fair share of struggles as he committed six turnovers but did however score nine points including three 3-pointers.
He will have to continue to improve and play more minutes as the trade of Blake will put more onus on him to be a factor on the floor and be an effective player.
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Bob Garcia IV
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