Published — Tuesday 4 December 2012
Last update 4 December 2012 3:03 am
LOS ANGELES: Dwight Howard wasn’t his usually playful self in the Los Angeles Lakers’ locker room. He refused to answer certain questions and shared few personal thoughts about his ugly reunion with the Orlando Magic.
“It wasn’t emotional,” Howard said.
Maybe that was part of the problem — and one reason the Magic left the reunion with their biggest win of the season.
Arron Afflalo scored 30 points, Glen Davis added 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Magic beat Howard’s Lakers in their first game against their longtime center, 113-103 on Sunday night.
Howard had 21 points and 15 rebounds against his former team, but the rebuilding Magic rallied impressively with a 40-point fourth quarter for just their fourth win in 14 games, snapping a three-game skid. Orlando pulled the upset partly by intentionally fouling Howard, who went 9 for 21 at the line — including 7 for 14 in the fourth quarter.
The Magic made their decisive 12-2 run while Howard wasn’t helping the Lakers at the line in the final minutes, with Nelson and J.J. Redick hitting 3-pointers along the way.
Howard’s first few months with the Lakers haven’t gone the way he might have expected after the four-team, 12-player trade in August: a sub-.500 record, a shocking coaching change, an injured point guard and an unsightly amplification of Howard’s career-long woes at the free-throw line, where he has dropped to 46.5 percent (87 for 187) for the season.
“As a team, our effort wasn’t there,” Howard said. “We have to start the game with energy and play the whole game the same way. We didn’t do that tonight, and they capitalized on it and they got a win.”
Howard left the court after the game without shaking hands with the Magic — not that he has many close friends left in blue pinstripes anyway. Orlando has new coach Jacque Vaughn, a new front-office staff and just five players who played with Howard.
“Let Dwight be Dwight. If he wants to walk off the court, it’s cool,” said Davis, who overlapped with Howard only last season in Orlando. “No hard feelings. He lost. I’d feel bad, too. I wouldn’t want to shake nobody’s hand. We weren’t even really thinking about him. We just wanted to get this win. I didn’t talk to him. I’m here to play basketball. I’m not here to be buddies.”
Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 3-4 under new coach Mike D’Antoni with another inconsistent performance featuring deficient defense. Metta World Peace scored 15 points and Pau Gasol added 11 for the Lakers, who went back to poor form just two nights after a 122-point effort in a blowout win over Denver.
Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 13 assists after nearly sitting out with tendinitis during the Magic’s most impressive win under Vaughn. Orlando also started a stretch of five road games in eight days with just its second road win all season.
Afflalo, the former UCLA star who moved from Denver to Orlando in the trade that sent Howard to the Lakers, had his highest-scoring game in a Magic uniform.
Knicks 105 Suns 99: In New York, Rasheed Wallace delivered a hard whack to Luis Scola, then some hard words to the referees.
These New York Knicks won’t let anybody have it easy at Madison Square Garden, not even the officials.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and the Knicks ran their best home start in 20 years to 7-0, withstanding Wallace’s ejection after a mere 1:25 of playing time to beat the Phoenix Suns 106-99 on Sunday.
Phoenix had won its last two at MSG but the Knicks have finally figured out under coach Mike Woodson that home-court games are not to be wasted. They are 18-1 in the regular season here since he took over last March, jumping on their last few opponents from the start.
“His whole thing when he came in is we’re going to protect our home floor. We’re going to win every game at home, or we’re going to try to win every game at home, and we’re going to go out on the road and compete,” center Tyson Chandler said. “So his whole thing is we’ve got to protect our house. Teams coming in got to feel like they’ve got to go somewhere else to get a win.”
Raymond Felton had 23 points, seven assists and no turnovers for the Knicks, who last won seven straight at Madison Square Garden to open a season when they started 9-0 in 1992-93. The point guard was hurting after the game. He went for an MRI exam that revealed a bone bruise in his swollen left hand.