LOS ANGELES — Kevin McHale summed it up best.
“As I’ve said a million times, to quote my boy Bill Walton, if they’re cheering you in the opposition’s gym, you’re doing something wrong,” the Houston Rockets coach said.
Center Dwight Howard, facing the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center for the first time since he bolted to Houston, did little wrong. Howard recorded 20 points and 13 rebounds in three quarters, and the Rockets rolled to a 134-108 rout of the Lakers on Wednesday night.
“Just got to remain positive,” said Howard, who finished with his 36th double-double of the season. “I have to block out all of the negativity that affects myself or my teammates. I know how important it is to be focused on the floor because my teammates look for me to stay that way. When I’m out there playing, no matter what happens, good, bad or ugly, I have to stay level and make sure I do that for my teammates.”
Guard James Harden led Houston with 29 points and 11 assists, and forward Chandler Parsons scored 18, boosting the Rockets (37-17) to a season-high eighth straight victory and a seventh win in their past eight road games.
Los Angeles (18-36) dropped its franchise-record eighth consecutive home game. The Lakers remain tied with the Sacramento Kings for the worst record in the Western Conference.
Howard, who spent one season with the Lakers before signing with the Rockets during the offseason, received a technical foul, much to the delight of the crowd, for taunting less than two minutes into the contest after a dunk over center Chris Kaman, but Lakers fans had little to cheer about after that.
“Dwight played really well,” McHale said. “He had great energy, he rebounded the ball real well, was blocking shots and made great decisions in the post. He did a great job down there.”
Howard dictated inside, hitting nine of 14 field-goal attempts, against the injury-depleted Lakers, who dressed eight players. Howard had a double-double (14 points and 10 rebounds) in the first half as Houston coasted to a 64-43 advantage at the break.
By the end of the third, the lead ballooned to 104-75, and Howard and the Rockets’ starters took a seat on the bench.
Howard said he had no regrets about leaving L.A., but in hindsight, would have benefitted by sitting out longer from back surgery, which he underwent the previous season.
“I just wish I would have waited to get healthy to play,” Howard said. “Everything happens for a reason. Coming off back surgery is tough. I wanted to come out here and show the fans here that I’m about winning. Unfortunately, I wasn’t healthy enough (last season) and neither was the team. As a team, I thought last season, we had that same goal. But it didn’t happen.”
Harden connected on five of seven shots from behind the 3-point arc and also had four steals. Houston converted 18 of 34 of its 3-pointers. The Lakers hit 14 of 27.
Lakers forward Wesley Johnson finished with 24 points, and guard Kendall Marshall added 20 points and 16 assists. Guard Jodie Meeks, who returned after sitting out five games with a sprained right ankle, scored 19 points.
“We can’t make excuses, but at the end of the day, we got outplayed,” Marshall said.
Before the game, the Lakers dealt guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for reserve guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. Blake, who was initially penciled into the starting lineup, was performing pregame warm-up drills before he was summoned off the court.
“It’s tough. You hate to see a teammate go like that,” Johnson said. “We built a great relationship off the court as well, so it was tough to see him go.”
NOTES: Houston coach Kevin McHale said his advice to C Dwight Howard was to focus on the game instead of the sideshow greeting him in his first game against the Lakers in Los Angeles since changing teams last summer. … McHale on Rockets backup C Omer Asik being unhappy with his role: “I assume his check is coming on the 1st and 15th of every month. Just go play basketball.” … If he isn’t dealt before Thursday’s trade deadline, Lakers C Pau Gasol, out with a strained groin, could return Friday against the Boston Celtics or Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets. … Lakers G Jordan Farmar returned after missing three games with hamstring soreness. … Lakers F Nick Young said he could play when the Nets visit Los Angeles on Sunday. Young has been out since Feb. 7 with a fracture in his left knee. … The Lakers fielded their 28th starting lineup in 54 games.
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