Los Angeles Lakers: Jacque Vaughn
March, 12, 2013
By Dave McMenamin
ORLANDO, Fla. -- In many ways the entire Los Angeles Lakers' season has been more spectacle than substance.
Tuesday was no exception as the Lakers had to wade through a scorned Orlando crowd that didn't have much to look forward to the rest of the season for their 18-47 Magic team, but sure had a lot to be upset about looking back at how Dwight Howard left their franchise.
The fans let Howard and the Lakers hear it from the minute the All-Star center led the team out of the tunnel for pregame warmups, through the national anthem that was punctuated by several fans screaming insults at Howard and on through the game when he engaged in back-and-forth banter with some courtside-seat occupants during timeouts.
In a season in which Howard has struggled to find a rhythm, he looked mighty comfortable wearing an opposing uniform in his old home for the first time.
Howard dominated the game from start to finish, putting up a new high as a Laker with 39 points to go along with 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.
No boos could ever have sounded so good when Howard checked out with 49.9 seconds left and L.A. up by 13. He closed his night with congratulatory hugs from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
How it happened: Even though the Lakers built a double-digit lead in the first half, the Magic kept L.A. from breaking it open too fast, first with an 11-4 run to finish the first quarter and then an 8-1 run to close out the second. Orlando briefly regained the lead at 57-56 in the third, but L.A. used a 17-4 burst to take control from there and didn't look back.
What it means: With the Utah Jazz off on Tuesday, the Lakers jumped back ahead of them for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West by bringing their record to 34-31, the most games over .500 they've been all season long. That's 17 wins in their past 23 games, for those of you scoring at home.
Hits: Antawn Jamison scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.
The Lakers held their opponents to sub-40 percent shooting for the second straight game as the Magic connected on just a 39.8 percent clip.
Misses: Bryant shot just 4-for-14 from the field, but dished out a game-high eight assists.
Earl Clark had just six points and four rebounds in his Orlando return.
Stat of the game: Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn proved he had no problem resorting to a gimmick like "Hack-a-Howard" to win. He did in the Magic's victory in L.A. on Dec. 2, when Howard went 9-for-21 from the line, and he did it again Tuesday. Howard tied his own NBA record for free-throw attempts in a game by going 25-for-39 against the Magic. He eclipsed Shaquille O'Neal's old Lakers' record of free-throw attempts in a game. Shaq was 19-for-31 on Nov. 19, 1999.
What's next: The Lakers continue their trip with the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday in Atlanta and will put their four-game winning streak up against the Hawks, who had lost five of six games coming into their matchup on Tuesday against the Miami Heat.