Lakers improve free-throwing, with Xavier Henry leading the way

The Lakers lost Dwight Howard, but then their free-throw shooting improved drastically.

Actually, no.

They were 28th in the NBA in free-throw accuracy as of last week, almost as bad as last season despite no longer employing the charity-stripe-challenged Howard.

But then came a three-game winning streak, hand in hand with better free-throw shooting. Did one cause the other? Probably not. A contributing factor at best.

But the Lakers will take it, their margin of error so small and their free-throw percentage looking so bleak a few games ago.

They made 12 of 15 from the line Sunday against Sacramento in a 100-86 victory, 13 of 17 against Golden State and all 10 from the line against Detroit.

It put them at 71.7%, 22nd in the NBA and in a good mood.

Leading the charity-stripe cheers? Xavier Henry, who made five of six against Sacramento.

"I've been working on it," said Henry, who was an abysmal 24 of 47 from the line (51.1%) before Sunday. "I don't know why I've been shooting so-so, but I've been working every day on it. Hopefully it just continues to get better."

Henry isn't alone on the Lakers.

Jordan Hill is almost as ineffective from the line, shooting 63.9%, a problem because he is now a starter. Pau Gasol has also been a little off — 72.1% so far, down from 75% career before this season.

The Lakers' free-throw accuracy will improve whenever Kobe Bryant returns (83.8% career), and anything's better than last season's 69.2% as a team, Howard making only 49.2% of his attempts.

Chris Kaman didn't play in Sunday's game because of a sore back but had some free-throw advice in a recent interview.

"We have a bunch of good shooters on this team. There's no reason for us to be where we're at," he said. "We need to put more effort into it after practice or before practice if you're struggling.

"Make sure you make your free throws. They're free."

Henry seemed to be listening.

"Every day after practice, I'm one of the last ones out of there, working with Coach [Kurt] Rambis" and player development coach Larry Lewis, he said.

Lantz returns

Longtime Lakers TV analyst Stu Lantz returned to work after missing two games because of laryngitis that came without any other symptoms, he said.

"I felt great. I felt like I could have played sooner than Kobe. I couldn't have yelled at Pau, that's all," he said jokingly.

Lantz said he received a surprising number of good wishes from fans.

"Everyone thought there was an illness of some sort, not taking into consideration that in my profession, if you lose your voice, you can't work," he said.

Lantz is in his 27th season on the Lakers' broadcast team. James Worthy took his place while he was out last week.

Development time

Rookies Elias Harris and Ryan Kelly will not travel with the Lakers on their three-game trip, staying in Los Angeles to play for the D-Fenders, the Lakers' Development League affiliate.

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.

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