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(Tuesday, March 12th)
Final Score: LA Lakers 106, Orlando 97
Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - The frenetic Orlando crowd jeered every time Dwight Howard stepped up to the foul line and cheered every time he missed.
Howard returned to the Magic Kingdom for the first time since his trade to the Lakers during the offseason and had a season-high 39 points, 16 rebounds and matched his own NBA record with 39 free-throw attempts in Los Angeles' 106-97 win.
The Magic hacked Howard intentionally throughout and continually sent the woeful foul shooter to the charity stripe.
Howard went 25-of-39 from the foul line, but sunk 23 of his final 30 after beginning the game just 2-of-9. He broke Wilt Chamberlain's 50-year-old, single-game mark of 34 free throws, done Feb. 22, 1962, on Jan. 13, 2012 against the Warriors. Howard sunk 21-of-39 from the line against Golden State.
He came in shooting 57.3 percent from the stripe. The rest of his teammates went 4-of-8 from the line.
"I think it was something I needed, to come back, and I think it was something that the city needed, too. It's closure," Howard said of coming back. "We can all move on. We had eight great years. People are going to feel the way they feel. I totally understand that."
Howard led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, was a six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year during his eight-year stay in Orlando. He averaged 18.4 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.16 blocks with the Magic, who selected him with the first overall pick of the 2004 draft.
Jameer Nelson and Howard embraced and conversed at midcourt after the game.
In an interview with Los Angeles' KCAL, Howard said, "my team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted." Howard later apologized and said he meant his teams were "underdogs."
Kobe Bryant added 11 points, eight assists and seven boards for the Lakers, who have won four straight and 9-of-11 tilts. They are a half-game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tobias Harris registered 17 points and 15 boards for the Magic, who have dropped six of their last eight titls.
Harris, Orlando's new No. 12, blocked its old No. 12 Howard from behind as he was going up for a dunk, which led to a fastbreak and an Arron Afflalo short jumper. This gave the Magic their first lead since the latter stages of the opening frame, 57-56, with 7:15 left in the third.
The Lakers quickly answered with a 15-2 run to seize control of the contest. Earl Clark hit two 3-pointers for six points and Bryant netted the final six, including a triple to cap the burst for a 71-59 Lakers advantage.
LA took a 76-68 spread into the fourth and Howard went 10-of-12 from the foul line in the final frame as the Lakers' margin peaked at 16.
"With any player, if you get 39 cracks at it, it's only natural for you to gain some type of rhythm," Afflalo said of Howard's free throw shooting.
Orland led 23-22 after a quarter of play, but LA outscored the Magic 28-23 in the second to go into the break, up 50-46.
LA turned the ball over just 10 times ... Nelson led Orlando with 21 points and seven helpers, but turned the ball over six times ... Orlando held a 27-12 margin in second-chance points.
03/13 03:02:33 ET