Dwight Howard returns to Los Angeles tonight for the first time since leaving for Houston.
Howard became the first player in NBA history to play in three straight All-Star games, each representing a different team (2011-12 Magic, 2012-13 Lakers, 2013-14 Rockets).
February has been kind to Howard so far. He is averaging 25.8 points on 65.7 percent shooting from the field in five games during the month.
Dwight Howard This Season
In the first meeting on Nov. 7, Howard missed seven late free throws to allow the Lakers to keep it close before Steve Blake hit a wide-open 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to lift L.A. to a 99-98 victory. Howard totaled 15 points and 14 rebounds but went just 5-16 from the line.
Howard has been better from the line lately. He’s shooting 70.8 percent (46 for 65) at the line over his last six games. In his previous 47 games this season, he had a 52.2 free throw percentage.
Streak watch: Harden vs Lakers
James Harden has scored 30 points in four straight games against the Lakers, averaging 33.5 PPG against them in that span.
Only three players have had a longer such streak against the Lakers in the last 30 seasons: Michael Jordan (1986-1988), Charles Barkley (1988-1990) and Scottie Pippen (1995-1996), each of whom had a five-game streak.
Marshall racking up the assists
Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall is taking advantage of his minutes in Steve Nash’s absence. In 16 starts this season, Marshall is averaging 12 points and 11.9 assists per game. Marshall’s assists are leading to 21.9 points per game. That ranked second-best in the NBA at the All-Star Break, trailing only Chris Paul (25.0).
The Lakers are 18-35 and tied with the Sacramento Kings for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. Their .340 win percentage is on pace to be third-worst in a single season in franchise history and worst since 1959-60, their last season in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles is also in the midst of a seven-game home losing streak, their longest streak in a single season in franchise history.
At this point in the season, it seems worth asking what sort of chances the Lakers will have in this year’s draft lottery.
The Lakers have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the league. Their opponents entered the All-Star Break with a combined .552 winning percentage.
Lakers Top 10 Overall Picks
Since ABA-NBA Merger in 1976-77
According to Hollinger's Lottery Odds, L.A. currently has an 8.4 percent chance of winning the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the fourth-best chance in the league.
The Lakers have picked in the top 10 of the NBA Draft just five times dating back to the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, last doing so in 2005 (Andrew Bynum, 10th overall). They have been very successful with those picks, which include Hall of Famers Magic Johnson in 1979 and James Worthy in 1982.