Magic rally past Howard, Lakers

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 03, 2012
Arron Afflalo scored 30 points, Glen Davis added 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic beat Dwight Howard in their first game against their longtime center, stunning the Los Angeles Lakers 113-103 on Sunday night. Howard had 21 points and 15 rebounds against his former team, but the rebuilding Magic rallied impressively for a 40-point fourth quarter for just their fourth win in 14 games, snapping a three-game skid. Orlando did it partly by intentionally fouling Howard, who went 9 for 21 at the line -- including 7 for 14 in the fourth quarter. Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 3-4 under new coach Mike D'Antoni with another inconsistent performance with deficient defense. Metta World Peace scored 15 points, and Pau Gasol added 11. Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 13 assists after nearly sitting out with tendinitis during the Magic's most impressive win under new coach Jacque Vaughn. Orlando also started a stretch of five road games in eight days with just its second road win all season. Not much of the team Howard left is still standing in Orlando, which now has Vaughn, a new front-office staff and just five players left who played with Howard last season. The center acknowledged neither hard feelings nor wistfulness before the Magic's visit, only saying the experience would be a bit weird. Vaughn, who never coached Howard, said before the game that the Magic wouldn't hesitate to force the big man to beat them at the free-throw line in a close game. Howard, whose success rate has been hovering below 50 percent, missed seven of his first nine free throws against the Magic before finishing with more free-throw attempts than the entire Orlando roster, which went 19 for 20. Orlando made its decisive 12-2 run while Howard was beating the Lakers at the line in the fourth quarter, with Nelson and J.J. Redick hitting 3-pointers along the way. Howard spent the past eight years as the face of the Orlando franchise since the Magic plucked him out of his Atlanta high school with the first pick in the 2004 draft. He made six All-Star teams and won the NBA's defensive player of the year award three times, leading the Magic to the 2009 NBA finals during five straight playoff appearances. The Magic were very good with Howard as their centerpiece but never won a title, and it all began to fall apart over the previous two seasons when he criticized the organization, flirted with numerous trades and eventually bumped heads with coach Stan Van Gundy, who announced Howard wanted him fired last April. Howard missed the end of last season with a herniated disc in his back, and the Magic missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Their agonizingly protracted breakup finally happened in early August when the patient Lakers swung a four-team, 12-player trade for the center, giving up All-Star center Andrew Bynum in the deal. The game also concludes a generous portion of the schedule for the Lakers, who played 12 of their first 17 games at home. Los Angeles plays nine of its next 12 on the road through Christmas, with no multigame homestands until the holiday week. NOTES: The Lakers don't visit Orlando until March 12. ... World Peace hit the 1,000th 3-pointer of his career in the third quarter. ... Lakers G Steve Nash did shooting and dribbling work on the court before the game. The two-time MVP has missed 15 straight games with a small fracture in his right leg, and the Lakers aren't sure when he'll return. ... David Beckham got a roaring ovation in his courtside seat when he appeared on the video board between quarters in the first half. The English midfielder won his second straight MLS title in his final game with the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. Beckham will play elsewhere in the new year, but will still live in Los Angeles at least part-time.
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