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GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Los Angeles Lakers 22 28 26 30 106
Play by Play Orlando Magic 23 23 22 29 97
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Lakers vs. Magic
Postgame: Dwight Howard
Assist of the Night
Nightly Notable
Bryant to Howard
Howard Denies Afflalo
Howard Throws Down

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Howard scores 39, leads Lakers past Magic 106-97

By KYLE HIGHTOWER


Posted Mar 12 2013 10:08PM

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Dwight Howard scored a season-high 39 points, had 16 rebounds and was sent to the free throw line 39 times by his former team as the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic, 106-97 on Tuesday night.

The victory came in Howard's first return to Orlando since his drama-filled offseason trade to the Lakers. He endured a chorus of boos throughout, and tied his own NBA record for free throw attempts.

The majority of them came as the Magic tried to employ an intentional foul strategy. It backfired, though, as the All-Star center hit on 16 of 20 attempts in the second half.

The victory was the Lakers' fourth straight.

Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 21 points. The Magic have lost three of their last four and haven't won back-to-back games since December.

After a week of back-and-forth in the media following some perceived negative comments made about his former team during a television interview, Howard and Nelson spoke briefly just after the final buzzer and shook hands.

It was a light moment in what was mostly a hostile atmosphere.

Homemade signs jeering Howard with sentiments that said everything from "Coward" to "Kobe's Kid" were sprinkled throughout the Amway Center stands.

Boos rained down on the All-Star center almost every time he touched the basketball. They were followed by louder cheers when he missed a free throw.

The intensity was also ramped up at times, too.

Howard got tangled up in a verbal back-and-forth with the Magic bench at one point during the first half, and Kobe Bryant left briefly in the first quarter, bleeding from his right eye after a collision.

The Lakers led 76-68 entering the final period and scored the first eight points of the quarter to push it out to a 16-point lead.

The Magic battled back and closed to 91-82 on a 3-pointer by E'Twaun Moore with 6 minutes to play in the game.

Howard made four straight at one point and the Lakers got their lead back up to 102-88 on a 3-pointer by Jodie Meeks with 2:25 left.

The Magic kept up the strategy, but Howard - who was shooting 47.8 percent before the game - hit his final eight attempts to help close out the victory.

Howard embraced the negative environment from the outset and was the main reason the Lakers had a 50-46 halftime lead.

He had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the opening 24 minutes, and would have had more if not for his 9-for-19 effort at the line.

Howard started just 2 for 9 from the foul line, prompting the Magic to try fouling him intentionally three times late in the second quarter. He had found his touch by then, though, hitting five of six on those occasions.

With the exception of Tobias Harris' 15-point first half, Orlando struggled offensively. The Magic had decent looks at the basket, but shot a paltry 37 percent (17 for 46) from the field.

They were also thin in the frontcourt for most of the half with center Nik Vucevic playing only 13 minutes because of two quick fouls. He went scoreless, with just two three rebounds.

Notes: Los Angeles now leads its all-time series with Orlando, 32-15....Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that injured F Pau Gasol (torn plantar fascia, right foot) is starting to run again and "feels pretty good." He said he will continue to be monitored to make sure there aren't setbacks, but that "it's close."


Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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Points Howard, 39
Rebounds Howard, 16
Assists Blake/Bryant, 8
Blocks Howard and Harris (ORL), 3
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POSTGAME QUOTES



Mike D'Antoni:

On the deciding factor in the game:
“Probably the 58 foul shots. We played pretty good defense. We thought we had a couple things going against us. We didn’t close out the half very well. We didn’t close out the first quarter, didn’t close out the half, but we hung in there; Played pretty good defense; Pretty good game.”

On making 16 of 20 intentional foul shots:
“Who knows, but I hate it for the fans. They can come to practice for free and watch them shoot 40, 50 foul shots. They don’t even have to pay for tickets. I’ll invite them all.”

On whether he can do anything about fouls:
“I’ll bet they do foul him. That makes up our best offense in a long time.”

On whether he’s disappointed in anything he saw tonight:
“A little bit. You still have to win the game. We did. That’s cool. We didn’t execute a little bit. Like I said, we didn’t close out the first quarter. The second quarter we were 11 of four runs in both quarters. We would have been comfortable ahead, we just let down. We didn’t have it all, but we had enough.”

On whether he considered leaving the bench in at six minute mark:
“No. That will not happen. It’s too important. You don’t mess with it. What happens when they tie the game up and there’s three minutes to go, and they go oh you know I think I’ll put the starters back in. I just do my normal rotation. I did leave them out a couple of extra minutes to try to get it, but I’m not going to tempt fate.”

On what’s been clicking the last couple of weeks that hasn’t before:
“Like I said before, I think Dwight’s (Howard) getting healthier. Steve Nash is getting healthier. Steve’s (Nash) learning how to play off the ball. Kobe’s (Bryant) learning to play with the ball some. Everybody is accepting everybody. Just a lot of good things. Steve Blake’s gotten well. Just a lot of good things came together.”

On how he’d sum it Dwight Howard’s play since the All-Star break:
“Great. I think what everybody expected. I think he can go up another level, but really good.”

On whether he can go up another level from 39 points and 18:
“Well, if they’re going to foul him 40 times he can. He can and he will. He’s been playing great.”

On Dwight Howard harnessing any nervousness he had his first trip back to Orlando:
“Everybody reacts differently, but Dwight (Howard) genuinely loves Orlando. There’s no doubt about it. Sometimes in your career you’ve got to make certain decisions. And did he handle it badly? That’s for you guys to decide, but he likes Orlando. He loves the people. Loved his time here. For him I’m sure there were a lot of emotions, but he got through it and did a good job.”

On whether the free throws calmed him tonight:
“Who knows, but I hate it for the fans. They can come to practice for free and watch them shoot 40, 50 foul shots. They don’t even have to pay for tickets. I’ll invite them all.”

On whether he can do anything about fouls:
“Could be. He started off bad on the free throw line, but I think second half he hit 16 out of 20. Some good stuff. Good practice for him. That’s good.”

On what the biggest challenge is trying to win tomorrow against a good Atlanta team:
“Well, because they’re good. That’s the biggest challenge no matter if we’re rested or not. But, we’ll find the energy, and we’ll play and try to get a win.”

On whether this is another off court distraction they’ll put behind them:
“Well, I guess. That’s more of just Dwight (Howard). He has to face his demons or whatever you want to call it. He has to do it, but we’re good. As a team I think our chemistry’s better, we’re playing better, guys are accepting each other better. Everything’s good.”

On whether there were any signs in tonight’s game that Dwight Howard was ready to tackle everything:
“To be honest with you I think he’s showing it the whole time, for awhile. I didn’t really see anything else. Dwight’s (Howard) an opposing force out there.”




Dwight Howard:

“I was looking forward to coming back. I was happy to be here. It was a fun game. It was a hostile environment but it was something that was good for my progress as a player. I think I needed that tonight.”

“Whatever happens…if they boo me or whatever or have those signs up, my love for this city will never change. All the boos and stuff I expected that. Like I said, nothing is ever going to stop the way I feel about this city.”

“This is fun. I came back home. This is the first time I have been back here since April. I was looking forward to being back here. Thank God it is over with. Like I said, I think this is something that I needed was to come back here and I think the city needed. It is closure. Now we can all move on. I had eight great years here and people are going to feel the way they feel and I totally understand that. All that stuff, doesn’t phase me. I will always have love for the city. My house will always still be here in Lake Mary. That is not going anywhere. I play basketball in L.A. and we are going to try for this championship.”

On brief talk with Nelson after game on court:
“Everybody is going to say certain things and try to start situations. Jameer is my brother. We came in together. I have no bad feelings towards him.”

“Whatever happened is behind me now. I can’t let that affect who I am as a person. We are playing a lot better and am doing whatever I need to help this team win.”

“We are leaving things on the court. We are talking more and everybody is getting in better shape.”

“The fans have always been great to me. Just hearing the cheers we had playing in The Finals in the old arena is amazing. We had it rocking. We had some great years. All those things will always be in my head but I have moved on from the situation. I came here a boy and Orlando taught me some great things. I will always be grateful.”

“I put a lot of time in this City too. I put a lot of time trying to make this city a better place….a lot of stuff still remains. I do a lot of work here with my foundation. I like to buy houses here and that stuff will never stop.”

“I want to come out and have fun. That’s the biggest thing. I want to put a smile on my face and go out there. I missed a lot of free throws but then I made a lot of free throws.”

“The chemistry is starting to come along and we have to keep it going. We talk every day. We see things and all of us look at film. We are looking for ways to make our team better. What people don’t understand is that it take awhile to get it going and learn how to play together. We have guys that are still hurt and trying to work their way back. We have found ways to come together.”

“I just wanted to get a win. Despite the boos, there were a lot of people out there who cheered.”

“I didn’t have to be aggressive (offensively). All I had to do was run up the court. I tried to juke one time so they couldn’t foul me. This experience was great. I needed that to learn how to block a lot of things out and I was able to do that tonight despite the boos and all that stuff. I found a rhythm and was able to tune things out.”

Ontrash talk with Big Baby Davis in first quarter:
“I have no ill will towards anybody on that team. I was just having fun and getting myself going.”




Kobe Bryant:

“I think psychologically it was big for him (Howard) to come into this environment and play as well as he did. I think it is a big boost for his confidence.”

“I think we have found our rhythm and our roles. Everything is kind of fitting well together right now and we are playing exceptional basketball.”

“That (sacrifices made by teammates) is always a part of it. Anytime you have a team that is playing well and being successful, everybody has to sacrifice a piece of their game. We have been doing that.”

On his message to Howard before the game:
“Just come out here and kill them. Just be focused and relaxed and go out there and do what you do best. Let the chips fall where they may. He played with a lot of energy and the right amount of energy. He wasn’t distracted or down about coming back. His energy propelled us.”

“I think it (free throw shooting success) will do wonders for him. The big part was stepping to the free throw line in those types of situations and that type of environment. For him to be able to make those here, he can make those anywhere.”




Jacque Vaughn:

On the Hack-A-Dwight method:
“I think early on it was a strategy that worked for us. I don’t know what he started off early. I think he only made two early. We needed to use it throughout the course of the game. If we would’ve made six more three’s I probably wouldn’t have done it but strategy wise I needed to give our guys rest. I played a few guys a lot of minutes and to see if he could make them and used the percentages and he stepped up and made them.”

On whether he considered abandoning the Hack-A-Dwight method:
“They were up by 10 then and so I needed to use time to score so that was the only strategy behind that. When he was stepping up to the line they were up 10.”

On his team having difficulty scoring:
“Good looks though. I’ll take those looks again, I think from guys who are very capable shooters. You look across the board and you see the guys who took three’s. Those are guys that we count on to make them. (They) just didn’t go in for us tonight.”

On Tobias Harris:
“I played him a 12 minute stretch and I couldn’t continue that. So it was really just a matter of I played him 12 consecutive minutes and he needed a break. I decided to give him a little break but I thought overall he was really good especially on the defensive end of the floor; allowed us to switch, some versatility there, and also had some really good plays weak side blocking shots. Things of that nature.”

On Nikola Vucevic:
“The one thing, I believe in my guys and so when he told me he was able to get back out there and play then I’m going to play him. I continue to believe in my guys. I’m glad that he got back out there. Great games like these are good for our young guys, to just be a part of, the atmosphere, how you respond. You learn a lot.”

On the atmosphere of the game:
“I think for the most part our guys were really competitive tonight. I thought their approach was really good. We had a few times where we might have lost our focus but that happens throughout the course of the game in maybe a blown assignment or something of that nature. No team is 100 percent ever but I thought our guys were really good tonight, pulling for each other, just competitive all night. Atmosphere-wise, once the game starts, that’s probably better for a player to answer. I’m honed in on the bench and what’s going on, on the floor.”




Arron Afflalo:

“Nik had a tough job, obviously. It was kind of hard for him to have a defensive impact or rhythm, kind of the way we were doing the fouling game.”

“Like any player, whenever you get 39 cracks at it, it’s only natural for you to gain some type of rhythm. Usually the percentages kick in when you take five or 10. Actually if you make a few, you gain confidence and I thought he did a good job of hitting them down the stretch for them.”

“Honestly I think they did what they had to do to get the win. I guess we have to hit shots. I missed four layups, four wide open three’s. Those are obviously why you put hours in the gym to make those layups and open shots. Sometimes that’s what it simply comes down to, basically little kid basketball, make your lay-ups, make your open shots. They didn’t do anything special offensively; they didn’t do anything special defensively. I think just that I was a big part of that, just missed open shots.”

“I thought at the beginning of the game it was pretty cool, a lot of anticipation. As the game wore on it seemed like another game. Maybe if it was a little more competitive in the fourth quarter probably would have seen the crowd a little more engaged. But the game wasn’t really that close for the crowd to be as engaged as you would expect in this environment.”




Tobias Harris:

“They got a lot of stops out there. On the defensive end they did a good job. We just missed a couple shots. It was hard to execute in the second half. But you know, they made a lot of free throws also, so that kind of hurt us.”

On sitting first part of fourth qtr.:
"The team was coming back, we were kind of rolling. It’s hard to say I should be out there. But at the same time when we’re coming back, as a player you have to have the attitude that it’s the team before you and that’s the type of player I am. I didn’t mind it, I would have loved to have been out there but the lineup that was out there was doing pretty well, so I understand Coach’s decision to keep me on the bench.”

On blocking Dwight in third qtr.:
“It was a pretty good block, just a read that I had coming over with help defense. It was just during the course of the game, one of those plays to help the team.”




Nik Vucevic:

On playing against Dwight:
“He played pretty well. He did score a lot of them off the free throw line but he played really well tonight. He came out aggressive, just went out there and did a good job. And I didn’t do a good job against him. He looked a lot better than he did then, especially athleticism-wise. Jumping better, moving better, he looked liked Dwight that dominated the league that past few seasons.”

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LAKERS-MAGIC PREVIEW

By KYLE HIGHTOWER

Posted Mar 11 2013 5:53PM

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) The number 12 is no longer sacred in Orlando.

The man who used to wear it, Los Angeles Lakers' center Dwight Howard, also once shouldered the Magic's hopes of attaining an elusive first NBA championship.

But after eight years of chasing it, and taking Orlando through one of the most turbulent seasons in its history last year, the man who called himself Superman is now the city's biggest villain.

He returns for the first time Tuesday since his offseason trade to the Lakers to face the jilted fans, front office members and handful of teammates that he left behind.

"I'm not sure," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said when asked about his expectations for Tuesday. "Obviously the atmosphere is gonna be probably a little turned up, a littler crazier than we've had so far this year."

Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis are the only players on the Magic's roster that have previously played with Howard. With Davis out with a broken foot and Turkoglu serving a suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy, only Nelson will play in the rematch.

There will be a No. 12 on the Magic's sideline, though. Only it will be worn by one of the Magic's most recent acquisitions, second-year forward Tobias Harris. He's been wearing it since his senior year in high school.

Fans once called Howard "D-12," they now refer to Harris as "T-12," a subtle dig to the star whose luster has faded in central Florida.

If his contentious departure from Orlando didn't add enough heat to Tuesday, Howard tweaked many in Orlando last week when he referred to his former Magic team as "full of people that nobody wanted" during a television interview.

He clarified later saying he only meant they were underrated.

He went further Monday when he apologized for his part in last year's drama during an interview with USA Today, saying in part that he "handled a lot of stuff the wrong way" and got caught up in trying to please everyone.

Howard acknowledges, though, that his reception will be icy.

"My dad said I might as well get earplugs," Howard said. "I think it'll be tough for everybody...I heard they have chants ready, so it should be interesting."

The Magic stunned the Lakers on the road back in December, 113-103, in easily their biggest win of the season. The Lakers were able to shake it off as early-season chemistry issues, but this time around can't afford any slippage as they try to hang on to a West playoff spot.

"We gotta get this win," Howard said. "That's what's on our mind. We don't know if it's going to be a hostile environment or a good environment, but it really doesn't matter. I know these guys are gonna be there for me."

Magic CEO Alex Martins said this week that he hasn't spoken to Howard since he left, and is focused entirely on a Magic rebuilding process that includes first-year coach, first-time general manager and major roster turnover.

"The way I look at it, basketball is such a fast-paced game that you gotta be focused on the present and future," Martins told The Associated Press. "And if I'm focused on anything from the past then I'm not doing my job in getting our team and our organization ready to compete again.

"So, that's all we're focused on, is looking ahead and our rebuild and making sure we're doing all the right things systematically to get ready to compete again in the short-term."

For a fan base that has previously trudged through similar sagas and departures of All-Stars like Shaquille O'Neal , Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill, this latest bitter homecoming is one that no one in Orlando ever expected to have endure again.

Now that it's here, though, the city and its fans are preparing to make Howard's return the most unwelcoming to date.

Along with chatter on social media planning signs to taunt Howard with, a local radio station put up electronic billboards in three Florida counties mocking Howard's visit. They feature a running countdown clock to Tuesday's game time with the tagline "'Til Dwight Leaves Us Again."

And boos are almost certainly expected to echo inside the Amway Center which Howard once helped draw sellout crowds in.

"I certainly will," said longtime Magic fan Dennis Salvagio when asked if he planned to boo on Tuesday. "I think because of the way he did it. There's lots of guys who left the team, but left because of other things, and they don't get booed and get a nice hand when they come back. But the way he did it was wrong and kind of spit in the face of the fans. Why shouldn't we boo him? It's why we pay our money, right?"

Salvagio has been a season-ticket holder since before the Magic even played their first game. The 65-year-old Orlando lawyer purchased the tickets he's held for the past 24 seasons in a special offering three years prior to their inaugural 1989-90 season.

He called the daily soap opera that Howard was the centerpiece of last season "messy," but was loyal throughout. But he said watching the affect the season-long ordeal took on the team changed his mind.

As raucous as the night may be, Nelson said he'll try to just focus on basketball.

"What's said is said and what's happened is over and done with," he said. "I'm just here trying to look forward and not dwell on the past. A decision was made and things happened. So it's not like anybody can take it back or anything like that. Me personally, I'm not mad at him for doing what he did.

"Could things have been done differently? Yeah, but they weren't. So me as a person I just have to move on and try to continue to be successful."

--- AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report. ---

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower.


Copyright 2012 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Probable Starters .
  Lakers    
  #15 World Peace SF #21 Harkless  
  #6 ClarkPF #12 Harris  
  #12 Howard C #9 Vucevic  
  #24 Bryant SG #4 Afflalo  
  #10 Nash PG #14 Nelson  


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Lakers Kobe Bryant
(ulnar nerve contusion, right arm) is probable.
Pau Gasol
(strained plantar fascia, right foot) is out.
Jordan Hill
(torn labrum, left hip/herniated disc) is out.
Dwight Howard
(torn labrum, right shoulder) is probable.
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Magic Glen Davis
(fractured left foot) is out.
Hedo Turkoglu
(NBA suspension) is out.
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12/02 - ORL 113 @ LAL 103
03/12 - LAL @ ORL
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