Howard, Magic Wreck Francisí Return
Orlando 111, New York 87
ORLANDO, Fla., March 22 (Ticker) -- Former All-Star Steve Francis returned to the Magic Kingdom. Dwight Howard made sure he didn't enjoy one minute of it.
Howard registered 23 points and seven rebounds and Hedo Turkoglu scored 13 of his 16 points in the first half as the Orlando Magic coasted to a 111-87 triumph over the New York Knicks, who absorbed their 26th double-digit loss.
After 1 1/2 tumultuous seasons in the "Sunshine State," Francis was traded last month from Orlando to New York for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway, who later was released. On Wednesday, the 6-3 Francis received a mixed greeting from the crowd at the TD Waterhouse Centre.
"I have been booed in Vancouver, so if I got booed in Vancouver, that right there was like a little kid that touched me on my head," Francis said. "Of course people just want something to boo about."
Francis played just 11 minutes and scored only two points.
"I can't do anything about it," said Francis, who played only in the first quarter. "I am not in a position to demand minutes. I did not go through training camp with this team."
The game was tied, 15-15, in the first quarter with just under five minutes remaining before Howard put Orlando on his shoulders and took control.
"I just wanted to come out and get a win," said Howard, who made 9-of-11 shots. "My team needed a lot of energy from me so I tried to provide it."
The 6-11 forward was brilliant over an 8 1/2 minute-span off the bench, scoring 14 points - including a monstrous drop-step dunk over Jackie Butler - in a commanding 24-6 surge that gave the Magic take a 39-21 bulge.
"He (Howard) was very focused," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "He attacked the basket. He was really active on the defensive end and on offensive boards and he did a excellent job."
Howard, who was late for shootaround, came off the bench for the first time in his career after starting 149 games.
"Traffic is traffic," said Howard, when asked why he was late. "It's no excuse. I'm a leader on this team and I can't be late. It's my fault."
Orlando built a 59-47 advantage at intermission as it shot 55 percent (21-of-38) from the field and collected 25 points off 17 New York turnovers.
"We gave up 35 points on turnovers and I don't think we got near a loose ball," Knicks coach Larry Brown said. "I think most of that was effort. We can point to a lot of people in terms of lack of effort."
The Knicks failed to meet the challenged after halftime as the Magic opened the third period with a 15-2 burst. Jameer Nelson scored five of his 13 points during that stretch, and New York never cut the deficit to single digits thereafter.
"This is a big step back," Brown said. "It was unbelievable."
Darko Milicic scored a season-high 13 points and Ariza added 10 and seven rebounds off the bench for Orlando, which shot 51 percent (42-of-82) overall and scored 54 points in the paint.
"I appreciate the playing time they give me," said Milicic, who got his first start in place of Howard. "I was asking for it, seven, eight minutes. If I get a chance to play those minutes, you know, see what I can do. Right now I got a chance."
Eddy Curry scored 15 points and Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson added 12 each for the Knicks, who shot 47 percent (30-of-63).
New York rookie forward Channing Frye will miss the rest of the season after an MRI on Wednesday revealed he suffered a sprained left knee ligament.