Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/3/12
LOS ANGELES -- Forget about Dwight Howard's bitter reunion with the Orlando Magic. Arron Afflalo wasn't about to let that circus derail his hometown happiness. The former UCLA Bruin and native Angelino scored a season-high 30 points, and Orlando employed the familiar Hack-A-Dwight strategy to perfection as the Magic shocked the Lakers 113-103 Sunday night at Staples Center. After trailing by as much as seven points midway through the fourth quarter, Orlando went on a 36-19 run to close the game, sending Howard to the free-throw line possession after possession. With the Magic hounding him at every opportunity in the last six minutes, Howard made just seven of 14 free throws down the stretch. Howard, who moved from central Florida to southern California in an offseason trade, had 21 points and 15 rebounds and finished 9-for-21 at the foul line.After the game, he downplayed the sentiment of the contest, despite wearing a scowl during the fourth quarter and in the postgame media session. "It wasn't very emotional," Howard said. "It wasn't emotional. It just bothers us we didn't play the way we need to play. We have to do a better job. ... That chapter was closed when I got traded." Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said his team attempted to treat the hype-filled contest with the regularity of any other game, but he acknowledged there was something special about the matchup. "Fans of ours who have circled this game on the calendar are probably pretty happy right now," Vaughn said. "But I stress to guys to keep things simple. Stay in the now. Play in the now." While the Lakers faltered down the stretch, Orlando got hot when it counted. Jameer Nelson had eight of his 19 points and seven of his 13 assists in the fourth quarter, helping the Magic produce a 40-point period. Vaughn said Nelson, who was battling left Achilles tendinitis, was cleared just an hour before the game. Glen Davis added 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Magic (6-10), who broke a three-game losing streak. Nikola Vucevic had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and J.J. Redick finished with 14 points off the bench to boost Orlando. "Honestly, I just think we hit some big shots," Afflalo said. "J.J. made a huge 3, Glen made a few nice driving baskets, Jameer hit I think two or three 3s. (Vucevic) had some big finishes. I think it was a matter of hitting some timely shots. That's all." The first big one: Afflalo sank a 3-pointer as the first half expired, tying the score at 52. He had 14 points in the first half on 6-of-10 shooting, adding four rebounds and three assists. "I think it was a matter of me being more aggressive," Afflalo said. "There's nothing I figured I would find difficult to do in terms of scoring this season, especially with the personnel we have and the opportunities I have on the court. But early in the season, I was trying to feel my way out -- how I'm going to be aggressive as I learn my teammates and their strengths. " Kobe Bryant had 34 points, seven rebounds and five assists but a plus/minus rating of minus-17 for the Lakers (8-9). Metta World Peace added 15 points with three 3-pointers, including the 1,000th of his career. Bryant had 17 points at the half to lead Los Angeles as the Orlando defense keyed on Howard. Bryant scored 12 points in the second quarter, when Howard was held scoreless. "The (media) is on me and Dwight to perform well," Bryant said. "We pick up for everybody's mistakes, whatever they may be. He and I have to perform at a really, really high level night in and night out. ... We have to make it easy for us." NOTES: The Lakers went 1-4 against Orlando from 2008-12 in the regular season, but they beat the Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals, four games to one. Orlando won the lone matchup last season, 92-80, at home. ... Howard's first game against his former Orlando squad didn't quite match up to what Shaquille O'Neal achieved in his first game against his ex-team after making the same move from the Magic to the Lakers in 1996. O'Neal had 25 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and five steals on Dec. 6, 1996, in a 92-81 Los Angeles win.
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