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Howard sparks Lakers win in Magical homecoming


Los Angeles Lakers’ Dwight Howard (12) smiles as walks on the court after a time out late in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Tuesday, March 12, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. Los Angeles won the game 106-97. AP Photo/John Raoux

ORLANDO, Florida — 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 Tuesday 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.

“I just wanted to come out and have a great game,” Howard said. “It was a great atmosphere. I could just get my mind away and play.”

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 lackluster 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.”

In January of last year, Howard went 21-of-39 at the charity stripe against Golden State to break an old NBA mark of 34 free throws in one game that Lakers legend Wilt Chamberlain had held for half a century.

“I want to get better and keep working at it,” Howard said of his free throw shooting.

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.

Metta World Peace added 14 points for the Lakers while Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash each contributed 11 points. Jameer Nelson led the Magic with 21.


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