Magic 123, Hornets 117
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)
The high-flying layups. The fall-away jumpers. The step-back 3-pointers.
Vinsanity was back.
After one of the most sensational games in his storied career, all Carter could do was shake his head and smile.
``Been a while,'' he said.
Shooting just 28 percent in January and being booed on his home floor suddenly seems like a distant memory since the calendar flipped. The kid from nearby Daytona Beach had his adopted hometown fans with their jaws dropped like never before in a Magic uniform.
``It's a new month. A new month brings new things. The past is the past, and it's going to be that,'' Carter said. ``I've had rough months. That's just how it goes. And I know the expectations, and you work so hard to have an impressive resume, so it's expected each and every night. I understand that, and I don't have a problem with that.
``I don't mind being booed because I know what I can do. So I was just going to continue to play and shine through.''
He do so in thrilling fashion.
Carter was 19 for 27 shooting and had 34 points in the second half with some of the most sizzling moves since he joined the Magic, who have won nine of their last 11 games. He added seven rebounds, two assists and a stockpile of highlights to his already illustrious career.
``I've never see anybody do that on my team,'' point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``I called his number like six times in a row, and he made it six times in a row.''
But there was no stopping Carter.
It was the most points by a Magic player since Tracy McGrady - Carter's cousin - had 62 points against Washington on March 10, 2004.
``He was unbelievable,'' Stojakovic said. ``He made some really tough shots over two guys or three guys.''
There were plenty of other fireworks, but eventually, Carter stole the show.
Darius Songaila was called for a flagrant-one foul with 6:21 left in the fourth after he wrapped up Dwight Howard and tossed him to the ground. Howard made the free throws, then Carter had a jumper and a step-back 3-pointer at the top of the key to tie the game at 106.
Carter followed that by slicing into the lane and finishing strong with his right hand for a layup, drawing a foul on James Posey for a three-point play. He would later hit another 3-pointer - his sixth of the game - and stand near midcourt, soaking in the celebration, pumping his chest and popping his jersey.
``It was a great feeling,'' Carter said. ``When you're rolling like that for your team, it's a great feeling. We have so many weapons, and just because of that I never imagined to be able to come out here and have a game like that.''
He wasn't done.
Carter would add a fall-away floater over Posey from the baseline to extend Orlando's lead to 116-110, and he would later make a pair of free throws to seal the win.
It was by far Carter's best performance since he was traded from New Jersey in the offseason, finishing three shy of his career high. The eight-time All-Star expected to be Orlando's missing piece to a title was back in peak form, and the Magic can only hope he stays there.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who was infuriated by the constant questions over Carter's struggles in January, perhaps summed it up best in his opening comments.
``I know one regular question I'm not getting tonight, 'What's wrong with Vince?' Anybody got that question tonight,'' he said, laughing. ``That was incredible. That was unbelievable.''
The short-handed Hornets had no answer.''
``That was good defense on him for the most part,'' West said. ``We just couldn't keep him contained.''
Playing without the injured Paul and Marcus Thornton (lower back), they just couldn't keep pace at the end. Early on, the Hornets seemed just fine without their injured backcourt.
West closed the half with two straight three-point plays, the last coming on a fast-break layup, losing his balance and falling into the media table behind the basket after being fouled by Howard. West's free throw gave New Orleans a 70-55 lead at the break.
But it was Carter who carried the Magic back.
``It's one of those games that, even us as coaches, this is one of those games that if you were here tonight you'll talk about,'' Van Gundy said. ``Remember the game where Vince got 48? Unfortunately, most of the memories I have are against us. Remember when (Dwyane) Wade got 50? That was against us. So now I've got one.''
NOTES: Hornets coach Jeff Bower said before the game that he was happy for the city of New Orleans that the Saints beat the Colts in the Super Bowl. ``It just really makes you feel good,'' Bower said. ``We're fans like everybody else.'' ... A winter snow storm expected to hit the Midwest in the next couple days could threaten Orlando's travel plans. The Magic play at Chicago on Wednesday and at Cleveland on Thursday. ``I hope we can get in. I just want to make sure we can get out,'' Van Gundy said, laughing.