Notebook: Magic 113, Lakers 103

Posted Dec 3, 2012 1:42 AM

By Dan Arritt, for

THE FACTS: Trailing by four points late in the third quarter, the Magic changed tactics Sunday night against the Lakers and purposely sent Dwight Howard to the one spot where he has failed to succeed in his career -- the free-throw line. Orlando repeatedly fouled the L.A. center down the stretch of the third quarter and again midway through the fourth. Howard responded by missing 10 of 18 free throws, taking the spirit out of the Lakers and opening the door for his former team to climb back and win, 113-103.

THE STAT: Despite making six All-Star teams in his first eight seasons in Orlando, Howard has never been an accurate free-throw shooter, hovering just above 50 percent for his career coming into this season. But his struggles have grown steadily worse this season and were certainly magnified against the Magic. He shot 9-for-21 overall at the line, dropping his season percentage to 46.5. In the last three games, he's a combined 15-for-42 (35.7 percent) from the stripe.

QUOTABLE: "It means a lot to me. We can all say it was just a basketball game, but we know. ..."

-- Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson

TURNING POINT: Howard actually made his first two free throws when he was intentionally fouled by J.J. Redick with 5:52 remaining in the game and Orlando leading by two. He made another with 4:28 left to keep the Lakers within a point, but Glen Davis made a spot-up jumper on the other end of the floor, Metta World Peace missed a 3-pointer for the Lakers and Redick drained a 3-pointer for a 95-89 lead. Redick then purposely fouled Howard again and he missed both free throws. Jameer Nelson then sank another 3-pointer for the Magic and suddenly they were up by nine points with 3:19 remaining.

HOT: Coming back home to Southern California has always provided added inspiration for Orlando guard Arron Afflalo and he certainly pleased his friends and family in attendance. Affalo finished with 30 points -- two off his career high -- making 11 of 18 shots, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Afflalo had seven of the Magic's 40 points in the final quarter.

NOT: Since Howard's struggles from the line have already been well-documented, another disturbing trend has been the chill that's enveloped the shot of Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. He scored 34 points but shot just 12-for-27 from the floor. In the last three games, he's a combined 29-for-70 from the field (41.4 percent). After a sizzling start to the season, he's below 50 percent for the first time.

GOOD MOVE: Orlando coach Jacques Vaughn, who at 37 years of age is the youngest coach in the NBA, indicated before the game that he planned to intentionally foul Howard. He kept to his word, maybe even starting sooner than many expected. The decision to send Howard to the line -- and the ensuing results -- seemed to rattle the Lakers on both ends of the floor as they gave up several uncontested dunks in the closing minutes.

BAD MOVE: Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni had the option of subbing Antawn Jamison for Howard and moving 7-footer Pau Gasol to center, but he elected to send Gasol to the bench instead with 6:07 remaining and the Lakers clinging to a one-point lead.

QUOTABLE II: "You take [Howard] out, that's drawing a big line. He'll make his foul shots. That's not killing us."

-- D'Antoni

NOTABLE: Nelson was a late addition to the starting lineup after missing Friday's loss against the Nets with tendonitis in his Achilles. He finished with 19 points and a season-high 13 assists. ... The Lakers are 1-6 when Bryant scores at least 30 points. ... The Magic have yet to beat a team that currently has a winning record this season. ... The Magic were 3-for-26 from 3-point range their last two games and missed their first seven against the Lakers before finishing 8 for 23. ... David Beckham was in his usual courtside seat one day after clinching the MLS Cup for the L.A. Galaxy. He was given a nice ovation when shown on the big screen.

UP NEXT: For the Lakers, Tuesday @ Houston, Wednesday @ New Orleans, Friday @ Oklahoma City. For the Magic, Monday @ Golden State, Wednesday @ Utah, Friday @ Sacramento.