Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard failed in his attempt to defeat his old mates and will face a Houston Rockets team that heavily pursued the All-Star over the summer.
Howard's public divorce with the Orlando Magic finally ended when he landed with the Lakers in a four-team deal. He had a chance for a measure of revenge on Sunday, but the Lakers dropped a 113-103 decision to the Magic at Staples Center. Howard ended with 21 points and 15 rebounds, but went 9-for-21 from the foul line and missed seven free throws in the fourth quarter (7-of-14).
The six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year was asked if the matchup with Orlando was an emotional one.
"It wasn't emotional," Howard said. "It just bothered us that we didn't play the way we needed to play."
Kobe Bryant paced the Lakers with 34 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the loss, L.A.'s fourth in the last six games. Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol scored 15 and 11 points, respectively, for the Lakers, who were outscored 40-26 in the fourth quarter and will play three straight and seven of the next eight games away from home.
The Lakers are 1-4 as the visitor this season.
Lakers reserve guard Steve Blake is expected to miss the next two to three months because of an abdominal issue that requires surgery. Also, Bryant is 52 points shy of 30,000 for his career, while World Peace is 18 points short of 12,000 and one rebound away for 4,000 in his career.
Los Angeles is 3-4 (.429) under coach Mike D'Antoni and seventh in the league with 100.7 ppg.
Houston has won five in a row as the host and is in the midst of playing nine of 11 games at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets won for the fourth time in five tries with Saturday's 124-116 triumph over the Utah Jazz as Patrick Patterson led seven players in double figures with 20 points. Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin each had 19 points, James Harden added 18 points and seven assists and Omer Asik posted 14 points and 12 boards for the Rockets.
All five Rockets starters have now scored 10-plus points in each of the last three home games.
"Utah is a real physical team. I think it took us a while to realize just to get a feel for them," Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. "Some teams we play are finesse teams. This team will rattle your cage."
Houston scored a season-high 39 fourth-quarter points (39-30) and hit a season-best .554 from the floor, including 11-of-22 from 3-point range, versus the Jazz. Parsons and Carlos Delfino each had a trio 3-pointers. Delfino notched 13 points and returned to the lineup after missing the previous seven games with a groin injury.
Patterson now has a career-best three straight games with at least 20 points for the Rockets, who are third in the NBA with 103.5 ppg.
The Rockets suffered a 119-108 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center on Nov. 18 this season and have dropped 11 of the past 15 matchups in this series.