Dwight Howard returned to Staples Center on Wednesday night as a member of the third-place Houston Rockets, and he found his former Los Angeles Lakers dead last in the West. With Pau Gasol (groin) out, Howard romped early, and the Rockets turned on the afterburners in the 134-108 victory.
James Harden put up a game-high 29 points and added 11 assists with four steals. Howard had a double-double before the first half was over and finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Wesley Johnson scored 24 for the Lakers, and Kendall Marshall had 20 points while handing out 16 assists.
It was the highest point total of the season for the Rockets as they vexed L.A. all night long and extended their winning streak to eight games. Houston demolished the Lakers on the glass 56-32, and the offensive rebounding gap was an unsightly 19-3.
The Rockets opened up a 64-43 lead at the half, and the Lakers never made it close. Houston purloined 15 steals in total.
At least the Lakers will have some new faces in their glum locker room after trading Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors prior to tipoff, according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times. L.A. will received Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks pending league approval of the trade.
The Rockets will try to keep their winning streak going, but they face four more games on the road and finish off this back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors. They just might get to face Blake if he can make it up to the Bay Area in time.
The Lakers will stay at home for the next two games coming against the Boston Celtics on Friday and the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.