Center Dwight Howard scored a season-high 39 points, had 16 rebounds and was sent to the free-throw line 39 times by his former team as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the host Orlando Magic 106-97.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwight Howard endured the worst reception of his pro career Tuesday night.
He promptly turned in perhaps his best performance of the season.
Howard scored a season-high 39 points, had 16 rebounds and was sent to the free-throw line 39 times by his former team as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 106-97.
The victory came in Howard’s first return to Orlando since his drama-filled offseason trade to the Lakers. He endured a chorus of boos throughout, and tied his league record for free-throw attempts. He made 25.
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Many of his attempts came as the Magic tried to employ an intentional-foul strategy. It backfired, though, as the All-Star center made 16 of 20 free throws in the second half. Howard’s excellence helped the Lakers secure their fourth straight victory and keep from slipping in their quest for a playoff berth.
His reception aside, Howard said he left the court still thankful for the support he got during his eight seasons in Orlando.
“I wasn’t nervous tonight. I was looking forward to playing here,” Howard said. “It was a hostile environment, but I think that was something that was good for me. For my progress as a player, I think I needed that tonight.”
Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, but also had six of Orlando’s 14 turnovers. The Magic has lost three of its last four and hasn’t won back-to-back games since December.
After a week of back-and-forth in the media because of some perceived negative comments made about his former team during a television interview, Howard spoke with Nelson briefly after the final buzzer. The players shook hands.
“Everybody’s always going to say certain things in order to start certain situations,” Howard said. “But Jameer’s my brother. We came in together, and I have no bad feelings toward him.”
Homemade signs jeering Howard with sentiments that said everything from “Coward” to “Kobe’s Kid” were sprinkled throughout the Amway Center stands.
Boos rained down on Howard almost every time he touched the basketball. They were followed by louder cheers when he missed a free throw.
“I think, professionally, it was really big for him,” teammate Kobe Bryant said of Howard’s night. “Coming into this environment, playing as well as he did, it’s big for his confidence.”
Heat wins its 19th
game in a row
MIAMI — Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and the Miami Heat extended its winning streak to 19 games, leading wire to wire in beating the Atlanta Hawks 98-81.
LeBron James scored 15 for the Heat, which matched the fifth-longest streak in league history. The 1971-72 Lakers have the record of 33 consecutive victories.
“Let’s be honest, guys,” James said. “We’re not sitting here and saying this is not something special. This is an unbelievable streak that we’re on. We’re playing great basketball.”
Miami (48-14) leads the Eastern Conference race by 9 ½ games over Indiana and New York.
• Guard Ricky Rubio posted his first career triple-double, with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 107-83 victory over the visiting San Antonio Spurs, who have the best record in the Western Conference.
• Host Charlotte emphatically snapped a 10-game losing streak, beating the Boston Celtics 100-74. Gerald Henderson had a career-high 35 points for the Bobcats.
• Marc Gasol scored 20 points as Memphis won 102-97 in Portland, the Grizzlies’ 13th victory in their last 14 games.
Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds.