Pity the poor Portland Trail Blazers.
The Lakers center had 21 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers took apart Portland, 104-87, at Staples Center.
Howard used to have these types of games all the time in Orlando, a Friday night alighting that left Lakers fans wanting more of the same.
He hasn't had a great season compared to his past production, averaging 17.5 points before Friday and only 11.8 rebounds, his lowest since his rookie season if it doesn't improve.
Friday's effort came after his worst game with the Lakers, an uninspired 27 minutes that ended with an ejection for clobbering Denver forward Kenneth Faried on a drive.
The self-criticism, if not self-loathing, that followed was priceless after he called the NBA's additional $35,000 fine “a lot for a foul.”
“I've got to do a better job of keeping my composure, not getting frustrated, and also remember to play for my teammates at all times and stay on the right path,” he said. “I've just got to continue to play through it, whatever it is, if the calls go my way or not my way. I've just got to find ways to affect the game and not let the game affect me.”
He wasn't done with his self-critique.
“I've been a victim of that for a while, sucking into the calls — me not getting calls — so I'm frustrated and I watch other guys get calls,” he said. “I can't allow it to affect me in a negative way to where I'm not playing hard and not doing what I can do and just dominate. When I allow those petty things to get to me, then it affects my teammates and we lose games.”
He was anything but petty against Portland.
He had nine points and four rebounds in the first quarter as the Lakers took a 34-25 lead, scoring off an alley-oop from Steve Nash, a three-point play, a dunk off Kobe Bryant's miss and an up-and-under move that lifted Portland's Sasha Pavlovic into the air.
“He played with a lot of energy and a lot of activity and gave us a huge spark,” said Bryant, whose 27 points were a little shy of extending his 10-game streak of 30-plus points.
Howard even bit back against the Hack-a-Howard strategy in the second quarter, making four of four free-throw attempts after the Trail Blazers intentionally fouled him on consecutive possessions.
They stopped doing it after that.
Howard also looked solid on defense, an issue for him at times this season. He blocked J.J. Hickson's shot after flying across the lane, almost through teammate Pau Gasol.
Two days earlier, Howard, who had back surgery in April, had a brief tiff with Nash after JaVale McGee got past both of them for a dunk.
“Every little thing, it sticks out. If we mess up a play on defense or you miss a free throw, or whatever it may be, it just looks like it's the end of the world,” Howard said. “But we have to move forward, remember that we have a goal in mind. It's still obtainable.”
There's also a way for Howard to get back some of that $35,000 he lost, a suggestion provided by Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni.
“I told him I'd give him back his Christmas gift,” D'Antoni joked, referring to the iPads that Howard gave each Lakers coach.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points for Portland, which historically dominates the Lakers up there (17-4 since 2002) but lost for the 13th time in its last 15 road games against the Lakers.
Howard was the reason, from start to almost finish.