No chants, just a lot of booing and a sprinkling of Lakers cheer for Dwight Howard’s return to Amway Center. Too bad the boos couldn’t cause Dwight to miss more free throws. After starting Tuesday 2-for-9 from the charity stripe, Howard would go on to drill 23 of his next 30 on his way to a career-high twenty-five free throw makes and a season-high 39 points as the Lakers were too much to handle and prevailed 106-97 at a soldout Amway Center. The thirty-nine points came in large part from a career-tying as well as NBA record matching 39 attempts. For now the media circus is over with, and all that remains is an 18-47 Magic squad. Enjoy postgame player interviews.
Coach Vaughn on Hack-A-Howard: "I think early on it was a strategy that worked for us...I played a few guys a lot of minutes and to see if he could make them and used the percentages and he stepped up and made them."
Tobias Harris doesn’t care much about being a successor to Dwight, but that didn’t stop ‘T12’ from having an outstanding opening period. Harris played all twelve minutes and posted an impressive 8 points and 7 rebounds despite Howard blocking one of his shots and dunking past Tobias. An eruption of applause concluded the first quarter as Orlando held a 23-22 lead despite the Magic shooting 7-of-24 as a team.
Coach Vaughn on difficulty scoring: "Good looks though. I'll take those looks again, I think from guys who are very capable shooters...They just didn't go in for us tonight."
The situation took a sharp turn towards bleak as the Lakers began the second quarter on a 13-4 run that included Nik Vucevic rolling his right ankle and scaring the living daylights out of me. Nik would get that ankle re-taped and did return before halftime. ‘Vucci Mane’ is the only Orlando man to have played in every game so far this season. Speaking of centers, Dwight fought off Jacque’s super early Hack-A-Howard strategy to mount a 19-point and 10-rebound stat line entering the locker room. Orlando was behind double digits, but give credit to O’Quinn (seriously) and Jameer knocking some crucial shots. Lakers were ahead 50-46 at the break as the Magic survived despite their 37.0 FG%.
Maurice Harkless picked up his 5th personal foul at the 8:26 mark of the third period with Orlando only down 3. No need to fret because Afflalo picked up the scoring slack. The Magic re-took the lead 57-56 thanks to a Tobias block on Dwight and Arron finish on the other end. A deflating 17-4 Lakers run quickly ensued and Orlando appeared stunned, entering the final period trailing 76-68.
Back-to-back lay-ups by Antawn Jamison early in the fourth found Orlando down 16 points and hope completely evaporating. Orlando was overall satisfied with its shot selection, but couldn’t bury their looks. The Magic now venture out on a 4-game road trip that will include a visit to Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. The trek begins Friday at Oklahoma City.