This game played out pretty much exactly as expected.
Dwight Howard made his return to Staples Center and was lustily booed by Lakers fans.
Then the game tipped off and the Rockets went out of their way to feed Howard in the post — he scored the Rockets first six points and had eight points, six rebounds and two blocked shots in the first quarter.
From there, as expected, the Rockets simply overwhelmed an over-manned Lakers squad. The Rockets went on a 9-0 run to end the first quarter, another 12-0 run late in the second, were up by 20 at the half and never looked back.
When it was all over Houston won 134-108, the Rockets eighth straight win. Just as expected. James Harden led the Rockets with 29 points, Howard added 20 points and 13 rebounds, and neither played in the fourth quarter.
“I think he came out and wanted to make a statement and stuff,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni s said after the game during a televised interview when asked about Howard. “He’s good and he’ll play well.”
On the court this game was never really in doubt. The Rockets were getting points any way they wanted — they scored 62 in the paint, they ran on the Lakers and won the fast break points total by 7, the Howard/Harden combo ran some nasty pick-and-rolls as they carved up the Lakers defense with little trouble. The Lakers wanted to make sure the Rockets got their quota of easy buckets this season and turned the ball over 20 times, too.
Wesley Johnson had 24 points for the Lakers, Kendall Marshall added 20 points and 16 assists.
The real drama was off the court. The Lakers’ fans who wanted a cathartic release could and did boo Howard. For most Lakers fans it’s not as if they are really happy with Howard, but they have moved on. By and large they are more focused on Steve Blake getting traded and if they can get Dante Exum in the draft. Howard is an afterthought.
Although one Lakers fan did pull the “psych” on a Howard high five as he exited the court.
Howard has moved on too — he’s happy as a Rocket and is on a team he thinks is building toward a contender. He’s playing his best basketball in years. He’s smiling and having fun and joking around — that’s the way he likes to play, but it drove Kobe Bryant crazy.
In the end Howard showed that the Lakers how well he and his teammates are playing. Now everyone can move on.