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  • Howard thrives in return to Orlando

  • ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwight Howard endured the worst reception of his NBA career on Tuesday night.
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  • ORLANDO, Fla. — Dwight Howard endured the worst reception of his NBA career on Tuesday night.
    He then promptly turned in probably his best performance of this season.
    Howard scored a season-high 39 points, had 16 rebounds and was sent to the free throw line 39 times by his former team as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic, 106-97.
    The victory came in Howard's first return to Orlando since his drama-filled offseason trade to the Lakers. He endured a chorus of boos throughout, and tied his own NBA record for free throw attempts.
    The majority of them came as the Magic tried to employ an intentional foul strategy. It backfired, though, as the All-Star center hit on 16 of 20 attempts in the second half. It silenced his detractors and more importantly, helped the Lakers secure their fourth straight victory and keep from slipping in their playoff chase.
    His reception aside, Howard said he left the court still thankful for the support he got during his eight years in Orlando.
    "I wasn't nervous tonight. I was looking forward to playing here," Howard said. "It was a hostile environment, but I think that was something that was good for me. For my progress as a player, I think I needed that tonight."
    Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, but also had six of Orlando's 14 turnovers. The Magic have lost three of their last four and haven't won back-to-back games since December. They also missed on their first season sweep of the Lakers since 2008-09.
    After a week of back-and-forth in the media following some perceived negative comments made about his former team during a television interview, Howard and Nelson spoke briefly just after the final buzzer and shook hands.
    "Everybody's always going to say certain things in order to start certain situations," Howard said. "But Jameer's my brother. We came in together, and I have no bad feelings toward him."
    Heat 98, Hawks 81
    At Miami, Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and Miami extended its winning streak to 19 games, leading wire-to-wire in beating Atlanta.
    LeBron James scored 15 and Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers added 14 apiece for the Heat, who matched the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. They will try for their 20th straight win today at Philadelphia, the start of a five-game trip.
    Only three teams have won at least 20 consecutive games in the same season: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33), the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20). The Washington Capitols also won 20 straight, spanning the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of the 1948-49 campaign.
    Josh Smith scored 15 for the Hawks.
    Mavericks 115, Bucks 108
    At Milwaukee, Vince Carter hit three key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored 23 points off the bench as Dallas won its fourth straight.
    Dirk Nowitzki added 19 points while O.J. Mayo had 14. Mavericks rookie and former Marquette star Jae Crowder, last year's Big East player of the year, was one off his career high with 14 points.
    Monta Ellis scored 32 points for the Bucks, giving him 20 or more in all six of Milwaukee's games this month. Mike Dunleavy added 18 points while J.J. Redick had 17. Larry Sanders had 13 points and 12 rebounds.
    The Mavericks, who are three games out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race, matched their longest winning streak of the season and have won five of six.
    Nets 108, Hornets 98
    At New York, Brook Lopez scored 26 points and had a big dunk over twin brother Robin, Deron Williams added 21 points and 13 assists, and Brooklyn beat New Orleans.
    Brooklyn squandered a 10-point lead in the third quarter before pulling off some timely baskets in the fourth to hang on for the win, bouncing back from a poor performance in a loss Monday at Philadelphia.
    Eric Gordon led New Orleans with 24 points. Robin Lopez had 15 points for the Hornets, who played without leading scorer Ryan Anderson because of the flu.
    Timberwolves 107, Spurs 83
    At Minneapolis, Ricky Rubio had his first career triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, leading Minnesota over San Antonio.
    Rubio made 9 of 17 shots and grabbed his 10th board with 9:14 to play in the game, giving his home fans something to cheer about in a long, frustrating season. Alexey Shved broke out of a big slump to score 16 points and J.J. Barea added 17 points for the Wolves, who hit 12 3-pointers.
    Stephen Jackson had 14 points and Danny Green 10 for the Spurs, who left Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard at home to rest after they throttled Oklahoma City on Monday night. San Antonio turned the ball over 17 times.
    Bobcats 100, Celtics 74
    At Charlotte, N.C., Gerald Henderson had a career-high 35 points, and Charlotte snapped a 10-game losing streak by beating Boston.
    Henderson was 11 of 19 from the field and knocked down all 12 of his foul shots.
    Ben Gordon scored 17 points and new starting forward Josh McRoberts had his first double-double for Charlotte with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Bobcats (14-50) doubled last season's win total and posted their largest margin of victory this season.
    The Celtics, playing without Paul Pierce, looked like a team that has played nine of its last 11 games on the road. Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford each had 14 points for Boston.
    Cavaliers 95, Wizards 90
    At Cleveland, Dion Waiters scored 20 points, Alonzo Gee added 17 and Cleveland held off a late run to beat Washington.
    Cleveland played its first game since Kyrie Irving sprained his left shoulder Sunday against Toronto. The All-Star point guard, who watched the game from the bench with his left arm in a sling, could miss the next month — and maybe the rest of this season. The Cavaliers are 5-10 without him this season.
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