The Lakers did not put in a full day's work Sunday, resulting in a stack of season lows, and a winning streak ended by an opponent that had been teetering.
After earning their keep, for the most part, in the first half against the Orlando Magic, the Lakers essentially knocked off for the rest of the afternoon.
Howard had 22 of his 31 points, eight of his 13 rebounds and all three of his assists after halftime.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were making only 38.9% of their shots in the second half, leading to their first defeat on their annual "Grammy trip," a seven-game, 12-day sojourn that had begun impressively with four consecutive victories.
"I told the players since they took part of the day off [Sunday], maybe [Monday] we can get after Charlotte, just redeem ourselves against them," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.
The Lakers' point total was a season low, the fewest they've scored since a 91-75 loss to Oklahoma City last March 26. It was their lowest total against Orlando since a 110-84 loss in March 1997.
They made only seven of 15 free throws Sunday, a season-low 46.7%. And they were two for 16 from three-point range, a season-low 12.5%.
"If you shoot a free-throw low for the season from the line, score a season low, then you better play damned good defense," said Lamar Odom, who had 15 points but missed five of 10 free throws. "And we weren't at the damned-good-defense point today."
Especially against Howard. The Orlando center was 13 for 16 from the field. He had six offensive rebounds. He had six dunks, and when he wasn't dunking, he was making left- and right-handed runners.
The Magic needed that, because the team had been running in place for more than a month — 5-6 in its previous 11 games, 9-9 in its last 18 before Sunday.
Kobe Bryant, who didn't have one of his better games, was asked to describe Howard's play.
"Like a Transformer," Bryant said.
Bryant had a quiet 17 points, missing 10 of 18 shots, including three of four three-point attempts. Lakers center Andrew Bynum had a solid 17 points and nine rebounds, but Pau Gasol had little impact, finishing with 11 points and four rebounds.
"I think they did a great job defensively," Bryant said. "I think they tried to keep us on the perimeter as much as possible and [make us] take contested shots."
The Lakers were down, 86-71, with 3 minutes 43 seconds to play when Jackson called time out. When play resumed, Jackson had taken Bryant out of the game.
Bryant looked exasperated. But after the game, he took exception when asked why he had come out.
"What does that question have anything to do with this game?" Bryant said.
The Lakers were down 15 points and Bryant has a history of competing until the end, he was reminded.
"Yeah, I subbed myself out," he replied.
Bryant was asked if he was disappointed to come out.
"I was mortified," he said. "Are you serious? . . . Ask me something serious."
Perhaps it was to save Bryant's legs because the Lakers play the Bobcats on Monday night in Charlotte, and it will be their fourth game in five nights.
The loss Sunday left the Lakers with a still-respectable 4-1 record on the trip, but it also left a bitter taste.
"It was a frustrating loss, because I don't feel like we made those guys beat us," Odom said. "They didn't beat us down. I want to get beat down when I lose. I don't just want to give them up."