Howard enters off the best game of his career as he looks for a seventh straight double-double when the Magic visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
The 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard has been the catalyst during the current five-game winning streak for Orlando (22-14). He’s added to his Eastern Conference-leading total of double-doubles in every game of the run after notching his 29th in monster fashion in a 91-76 victory at Golden State on Wednesday.
Howard had a career-high 30 points and a season-best 25 rebounds—one off his career high—to help Orlando end a four-game road skid. It marked his fourth game this season with at least 20 points and 20 boards.
“I was nervous,” Howard said. “I’m just glad we got the win. … I’ve been trying to push myself in practice to get every rebound, every block, trying to score every time and also getting my teammates involved—and try to implement that in a game.”
The Lakers have won nine straight home games against the Magic, dating back to 1996, and 14 of the last 16 meetings overall after a 106-93 victory on Dec. 29 at Orlando. Howard was limited to 12 points and eight rebounds—the only game of his last 13 he’s failed to notch a double-double.
Bynum had a difficult time for Los Angeles in a 102-77 loss at Houston on Wednesday despite finishing with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The 7-footer was on the receiving end of several of 40-year-old Rockets center Dikembe Mutombo’s five blocks.
“Andrew needs to learn from him (Mutombo) and talk to him when he can to get some pointers,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “I always went out of my way to talk to the great players when I got in the league to learn things from them and he can do the same.”
Bryant was held to 20 points—eight below his season average—and went 6-for-18 from the field for the Lakers, who were held to a season-low point total. Bryant suffered a minor groin strain in the second quarter and left the game with 3:33 left after playing 34 minutes.
Bryant said after the game the injury was “tight,” but said he would be ready to play on Friday.
“I will let it chill and I should be fine,” said Bryant, who is averaging 19.8 points over the last four games on 38.7 percent shooting, including 3-of-15 from 3-point range.
The Lakers have had their ups and downs this season and this week was no different. They ended Dallas’ 13-game winning streak on Sunday before suffering losses at Memphis and Houston on consecutive nights.
“We had a four-game win streak and now we are hitting a low and we have to get out of our funk,” Los Angeles forward Luke Walton said. “It (stinks) that we are not playing well and we have to get this thing together.”
Orlando could be without forward Trevor Ariza, who suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee Wednesday in the first half. The Los Angeles native is two points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career.