Recap: L.A. Lakers 106 – Orlando Magic 97
The fans were fired up in the beginning, with boos raining down every time Dwight Howard touched the ball. As the game progressed, they grew quieter and quieter. By the fourth quarter, with the Magic trailing by as many as 16 points, the Amway Center sat morose – dropping occasional boos out of obligation.
Although the Magic kept it competitive through most of the first three-quarters, in the end they were done in by their former superstar as Howard’s Lake Show beat Orlando 106-97.
In his first return to Orlando, Dwight finished the night with 39 points and 16 rebounds and powered through the Hack-a-Howard strategy utilized by Jacque Vaughn. After starting the night 2-9 from the line, Dwight finished with a career high 25 made free throws and tied his own NBA record with 39 attempts.
While the strategy clearly did not work, the intentional fouling seemed to be all the Magic could do to try to claw their way back into a game in which they went from leading in the 3rd quarter – to trailing big. The Magic were up by one with 7:15 left in the 3rd quarter and suddenly found themselves trailing by 12 just four minutes later.
Tobias Harris, the new number 12, did his best to keep Orlando hanging in the game and finished the night with 17 points and a career high 15 rebounds. Harris played 34 of the first 36 minutes before finally getting an extended rest. Unfortunately, that extended rest came in the pivotal 4th quarter when L.A. pulled away for good.
Jameer Nelson, the only remaining Magic player from the Dwight-era who was dressed in a Magic uniform, led the team in scoring with 21 points. Arron Afflalo had a forced 17 points on 6-18 shooting.
Despite Orlando holding Kobe Bryant to just 11 points on the night, they didn’t have the team defense or sustained energy to hang with the now gel-ing Lakers. In all fairness to the young Magic players, they went all out in the beginning and played with such intensity they were bound to run out of steam at the end.
It didn’t help that Moe Harkless was only able to play five minutes in the second half due to foul trouble. It also didn’t help that Nik Vucevic, who scored 17 points in L.A., threw out one of his worst performances of the season with a six point, 11 rebound stinker. To add insult to injury, he had to head to the locker room towards the end of the 2nd quarter after being hit in the “lower extremities”. Ouch.
The story line here is obviously Dwight Howard. He came in, dominated the team he left so decimated, and walked away again. It was an emotional start with a lackluster end. The good news for Magic fans is that it’s over. Dwight came and went and the world kept on turning.
Watch this video of Tobias Harris blocking Dwight Howard to make you feel better.
The Magic are off until Friday night when they begin a four game road-trip in Oklahoma City. Tip is at 8pm EST.