Rockets center Dwight Howard splits the double-team defense of Lakers… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Dwight Howard made his return to Staples Center on Wednesday night for the first time since leaving the Lakers as a free agent over the summer to join the Houston Rockets.
His new team completely destroyed the Lakers on Wednesday night, 134-108.
Howard, playing to a chorus of boos every time he touched the ball, finished with a double-double: 20 points and 13 rebounds. All-Star guard James Harden led all scorers with 29 points. He also dished 11 assists and committed only one turnover.
Houston dominated the boards, with a 56-32 advantage, especially on the offensive end where they outrebounded the Lakers, 19-3.
Forward Wesley Johnson led the Lakers with 24 points. Point guard Kendall Marshall put up big numbers again, with 20 points and 16 assists. The team shot 48.8% from the field and 51.9% from the three-point arc, but where they struggled most was on the defensive end.
Houston took a season-high 104 shots, making 52 (also a season high). The Rockets scored at least 30 points in every quarter while making 18-of-35 shots from three-point range (51.8%).
Guard Jodie Meeks returned from an ankle injury to score 19. Rookie forward Ryan Kelly chipped in 13 while Jordan Hill scored 10 against his former team.
Jordan Farmar also got back on the floor after a hamstring injury, scoring nine in almost 20 minutes of play.
The Lakers (18-36) host the Boston Celtics (19-36) on Friday. The Rockets (37-17) visit the Golden State Warriors (32-22) on Thursday night.
The Lakers will have two new faces in the locker room shortly with Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks on their way from Golden State, which acquired veteran guard Steve Blake, who did not play against Houston.
The NBA trade deadline is noon on Thursday and the Brooklyn Nets have inquired about a deal for Hill.
Rockets 104, Lakers 75 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers' miserable first half turned uglier when they gave up 40 points to Houston in the third quarter.
Rockets guard James Harden now has 29 points with 11 assists to lead both teams. Center Dwight Howard has 20 points and 13 rebounds for Houston, which is shooting 53.2% from the field and 50% from behind the three-point arc.
The Lakers did manage 32 points in the quarter. Forward Wesley Johnson is leading the team with 21 points while point guard Kendall Marshall, who has 13 points, is one assist away from a double-double.
The Lakers are shooting 46.8% from the field but continue to be destroyed on the boards, with Houston owning a 44-18 rebounding advantage.
Rockets 64, Lakers 43 (halftime)
The Lakers kept relatively close to the Rockets for much of the second quarter before another late Houston run pushed the Rockets' lead to 21 points.
Houston guard James Harden, the recipient of a Chris Kaman flagrant foul, scored 15 points. Forward Chandler Parsons and center Dwight Howard each scored 14, while Howard finished the first half with 10 rebounds for a double-double.
The Lakers were led by forward Wesley Johnson with 15 points. Point guard Kendall Marshall scored seven and had seven assists while point guard Jordan Farmar chipped in six points off the bench for the Lakers, who shot 41.5% from the field.
Houston shot 47.3% from the field and forced the Lakers into 13 turnovers.
The biggest deficit was on the boards, with the Rockets holding a 34-13 advantage.
Rockets 32, Lakers 22 (end of first quarter)
Dwight Howard returned to a chorus of boos, the Staples Center crowd letting him have it every time he touched the basketball.
Howard helped the Rockets take an early lead, though, by hitting his first three shots and finishing the quarter with eight points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and one technical foul. The fans approved of the technical.
The Rockets went on a late run to go up by 10. Houston forward Chandler Parsons leads all scorers with nine points.
The Lakers, who shot 38.1% from the field, have been led by Wesley Johnson with five points. Houston, which shot 45.2%, forced the Lakers into seven turnovers.
Guards Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Jodie Meeks (ankle) made their returns from injury, although the Lakers were without veteran guard Steve Blake, who was traded to the Golden State Warriors for guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks before the game.
The Lakers (18-35) host the Houston Rockets (36-17) on Wednesday night at Staples Center. Dwight Howard makes his return to face the Lakers in Los Angeles for the first time this season.
The Lakers will have Jodie Meeks back from an ankle injury. Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is a game-time decision but Paul Gasol (groin) will sit out another game before making a return.
The Lakers will also play without Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), Nick Young (knee) and Xavier Henry (knee).
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Houston Rockets.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.