Howard sinks Magic

Dwight Howard starred for the Lakers on his return to Orlando.
Dwight Howard starred for the Lakers on his return to Orlando.

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard scored a season-high 39 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Lakers over the Orlando Magic 106-97 in a homecoming game against his former NBA club.

Howard also matched his own NBA record for free throw attempts in a game with 39, sinking 25 of them while hitting 7-of-13 shots from the field as the Lakers improved to 34-31 in their fight for a Western Conference playoff berth.

Magic supporters who once cheered Howard booed him throughout the game as Orlando players deliberately fouled him at times, sending Howard to the free throw line where his success rate is lacklustre at best.

“I want to thank everyone in Orlando who supported me for those eight years,” Howard said. “I don’t care how many signs they hold up or how many times they boo me, I will always have love for them.”

During eight seasons with the Magic, Howard was a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, a six-time All-Star and in 2009 he led the Magic to the NBA Finals. He averaged 18.4 points and 13.0 rebounds during his stay in Orlando.

Howard was traded to the Lakers in a four-team “Dwight-mare” deal last season and the Magic have revamped the roster this season, falling to 18-47.

The Lakers, who lost at home to Orlando in December, stretched their win streak to four in a row with their ninth triumph in 11 games.

Elsewhere, Boomers guard Patty Mills scored eight points as his San Antonio Spurs fell 107-83 to Minnesota, who were piloted by Ricky Rubio’s impressive triple-double.

The Spanish star scored 21 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and added 12 assists.

In Miami, Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and LeBron James added 15 to spark the defending champion Heat to their 19th consecutive victory in a 99-81 rout of the Atlanta Hawks.

The Heat matched the fourth-longest single-season win streak in league history, trailing only the 20 in a row by Milwaukee in 1970-71, Houston’s 22 in a row in 2007-08 and the Los Angeles Lakers’ record run of 33 from 1971-72.

Miami also matched the record for the longest win streak by a defending NBA champion, a 19-game run by Boston in the 2008-09 campaign.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Bobcats snapped their 10-game losing streak with a 100-74 thumping of Boston, with Gerald Henderson scoring a career-high 35 points.††

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