Bitter return? Howard set to play before Lakers faithful

( - Dwight Howard will make his first appearance against the Lakers in Los Angeles on Wednesday night when the Houston Rockets start a western trip at the Staples Center.

Howard played only one season in Hollywood, but it was tainted with in house squabbles with teammates, especially Kobe Bryant, a fired coach in Mike Brown, and massive underachievement.

Howard bolted L.A. for Houston as a free-agent in the offseason. The decision has paid off beautifully for both the Rockets and Howard. Houston is tied for third in the Western Conference and Howard just made his eighth All-Star team over the weekend.

Howard finished with eight points and 11 rebounds Sunday night in New Orleans. James Harden started for the West and chipped in eight points in the loss.

The two Rockets aren't used to losing much lately. Houston has won seven consecutive games, including three straight on the road. The Rockets play five in a row out west with stops against the Golden State Warriors, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Clippers after the matchup with the Lakers.

Last time out was Houston's most dramatic victory during the streak.

Harden's go-ahead layup with 0.7 seconds left lifted the Rockets to a 113-112 victory on Wednesday night over the Washington Wizards in Space City.

John Wall sunk a pair of foul shots to stake Washington to a 112-110 advantage with four seconds to play.

Harden drew an away-from-the-play foul prior to the ensuing inbounds and made the free throw to get the Rockets within a point. Harden then got the ball at the top of the arc and split a pair of Washington defenders before driving in for the easy layup.

Kevin Seraphin's turnaround jumper from the left wing at the horn was off the mark.

"We were looking for them to foul on the first one and then get a layup on the second one. It worked out perfectly," said Houston head coach Kevin McHale.

Harden finished with 35 points, six rebounds and six assists, Dwight Howard tallied 24 points and 16 rebounds and Chandler Parsons added 18 points, 12 boards and six assists for Houston.

The Lakers dropped three in a row before the break and injuries have ravaged this team.

Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Jordan Farmar are all expected to be out Wednesday night.

On Thursday night, the Lakers lost their franchise-worst seventh straight home game when the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Hollywood and left with a 107-103 victory.

NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant scored 19 of his game-high 43 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Thunder.

"He's 14-for-33 so that's great defense. Anytime he shoots under 50 percent that's good," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Durant.

Chris Kaman and Wesley Johnson led six Lakers in double figures with 19 points apiece. Kaman also had 10 rebounds and six assists. Shawne Williams added 15 points and nine rebounds and Kendall Marshall had 14 points and doled out a game-high 17 assists for the Lakers.

The two teams split this season's matchups with both contests staged in Houston. The Lakers are 6-1 in their last seven against the Rockets in Los Angeles.