Howard sparks Lakers rebound
LOS ANGELES – The return of Dwight Howard helped the Los Angeles Lakers end their longest losing streak in nearly six years as they blew out Cleveland 113-93 at the Staples Centre last night.
Howard had missed the last three games with a right shoulder injury and the Lakers had been ailing on the court with a six-game losing streak, but they broke out in a big way to snap the stretch.
Howard had 22 points and 14 rebounds, missing just two shots from the field, and Kobe Bryant added 23 and six assists and was not needed for the fourth quarter of an easy win.
Los Angeles are still without big men Pau Gasol, who missed a fourth straight contest with a concussion, as well as Jordan Hill, who may be out the rest of the season because of a hip injury.
The Lakers (16-21) have fallen well short of the lofty expectations set by their talented roster, as defensive issues and rumoured personnel problems have surrounded their defeats.
While still out of the current Western Conference playoff picture, a much-needed win could put them back on the right track.
Los Angeles outscored the Cavaliers 37-20 in the first quarter and held the visitors at bay from there.
Steve Nash chipped in 10 points and nine assists in the triumph.
Meanwhile in Portland the short-handed Oklahoma City Thunder were rescued by LaMarcus Aldridge’s miscalculation and Kendrick Perkins’ defence.
Aldridge air-balled a 20-foot step-back jumper with 1.7 seconds left that would have tied it for the Trail Blazers, and the Thunder went on to snap Portland’s nine-game winning streak at the Rose Garden with an 87-83 victory.
Kevin Durant had 33 points for the Thunder, who had their lowest output since scoring 84 in the season opener against San Antonio. Russell Westbrook added 18 points and nine assists for the Thunder in the absence of starters Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha.
Aldridge had a season-high 33 points and 11 rebounds for the Blazers, who trailed by 11 points but came within one point with less than a minute left.
Other scores last night were: Hornets 87, Knicks 100; Bucks 107, Raptors 96; Pacers 86, Nets 97; Timberwolves 88, Spurs 106; Warriors 105, Nuggets 116.