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Howard's Rockets thrash Lakers

LOS ANGELES -- Dwight Howard enjoyed a winning return to Los Angeles on Wednesday as he and the Houston Rockets dealt the floundering Lakers a resounding 134-108 NBA defeat.

Howard spent last season with the Lakers, a campaign shadowed by injury and squabbles with teammates, including Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant.

As a free agent he bolted for Houston, where he earned All-Star honors as part of a Rockets team now third in the Western Conference.

The teams had met twice before this season, both times in Houston. On Wednesday, Howard was defiant in the face of jeers from the Lakers faithful, scoring 20 points with 13 rebounds and three blocks — and earning a technical less than two minutes into the contest.

“He came out and wanted to make a statement,” Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Howard. “He's good. He played well.”

James Harden contributed 29 points and 11 assists as the Rockets stretched their winning streak to eight.

Chandler Parsons added 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas scored 12, and Terrence Jones and Francisco Garcia chipped in 11 points apiece.

The Rockets notched their eighth straight win against a Lakers team in free fall.

Los Angeles dropped their fourth straight game overall and extended their club-record home losing streak to eight.

Wesley Johnson led the injury depleted Lakers — still making do without Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash among others — with 24 points.

Kendall Marshall scored 20 points and handed out 16 assists for the Lakers, who launched their long-term rebuilding efforts shortly before the game started with a trade of veteran Steve Blake to Golden State.

The Lakers received young shooting guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks in return for Blake.

Blake, who had to change out of his warm-ups and back into his street clothes before departing the arena, seemed shocked.

“The hardest thing is for my family, really. I've got a wife and three little kids and now I'm going to have to spend four months probably away from them,” he said.

Blake said he'd loved his time as a Laker and would consider returning as a free agent in the future, but in the meantime he was hoping to find a good fit with the Warriors.

“I'm going to, obviously, a really, really good team,” Blake said. “I've got a lot of respect for them there and I look forward to getting to know them.”

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 Wise victorious on halfpipe for another American gold 
Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard, left, and guard James Harden react after Howard was called for a technical foul during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Feb. 19. (AP)



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