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Dwight Howard is in midseason form: Fouls out in 13 minutes, picks up flagrant, technical

LOS ANGELES — It was the first preseason game in the NBA this season, every star player on both teams sat it out (except for one quarter of Anthony Davis), and it was a sloppy game for long stretches, as one should expect from a game five days into training camp.

But Dwight Howard was already in midseason form.

In 13 minutes of action Sunday against the Nets’ reserves, Howard fouled out, picked up a flagrant foul, was goaded into a technical by James Harden, and drew maybe the loudest ovation of the day from Lakers fans for his actions.

Howard came off the bench and picked up fouls at a Summer League pace the minute he set foot on the court Sunday. He was physical inside, which meant his minutes were not always pretty, but he did have 11 points on 3-of-7 shooting by the end of the game. The physicality ultimately meant he fouled out.

Howard’s sixth foul came on a play where he got a flagrant because of an inadvertent but solid elbow to the face of the Nets’ Day’Ron Sharpe. It was Sharpe who got the initial loose ball foul, but in the struggle for position after that, Howard’s elbow caught Sharpe cleanly. The referees didn’t see it initially, so they stopped play to review the footage.

While that review was going on, Harden walked out and goated Howard into the technical, as this footage from Ben Simmons of the Washington Post showed.

When the referees finished their lengthy review, they let Dwight Howard take a free throw for the loose ball foul — Howard drained it — then realized he couldn’t take it because he was fouled out and was supposed to be on the bench. The Lakers crowd cheered Howard as he went to the bench, he egged them on some, and then DeAndre Jordan stood and hugged Howard.

“That sequence was crazy. I didn’t know I got a tech. I got a tech for standing by Trevor (Ariza)...” Howard said after the game. “I didn’t know I got a tech because I didn’t do anything to deserve one but I’m still going to go out there and have fun, play hard and play aggressive.”

Malik Monk led the Lakers with 15 points, while Cameron Thomas scored 21 for the Nets, who won the game 123-97.