Dwight Howard was 15 years old the last time the Orlando Magic won in Phoenix. It was the only NBA city where he had not walked away a winner.
Until Sunday — and it wasn’t even close.
Howard had 26 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots, then watched the fourth quarter from the bench as the Orlando Magic completed a 111-88 rout of the Suns for their first victory in Phoenix in nine seasons.
”We hadn’t won here since I have been in the NBA, so that was our whole focus,” Howard said, ”to get a good win.”
With a hook shot over Robin Lopez in the third quarter, Howard topped 10,000 career points. Big deal, he said afterward
”I never look at the points,” Howard said. ”Rebounds and blocks are what win games for me.”
Aaron Brooks, starting in place of injured Steve Nash, had 19 points and 10 assists, but the Suns were blown out at home for the second game in a row.
Six other Magic players reached double figures, led by Brandon Bass with 17 and Gilbert Arenas with 16, and Orlando’s regulars got plenty of rest heading into Monday night’s game against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
Nash missed the game with ”pelvic instability.” Coach Alvin Gentry said his star point guard probably also will miss Monday night’s game at Houston.
”We played well, but they are a totally different team without Steve Nash,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ”Aaron Brooks was great today. He scored a lot but Steve Nash sets everybody else up, gets everybody else playing. We have been fortunate we have played them twice without Steve Nash and it is a whole different ball game.”
Orlando had lost three of four, most recently a 123-120 overtime defeat at Golden State on Friday night, but the Magic dominated Nash-less Phoenix in a stifling third quarter.
”Steve is the backbone of our team,” Gentry said. ”I mean, obviously, he gets guys good looks and he creates situations where we have pace and rhythm and things like that. But we don’t have Steve, so we have to create that some other way.”
The Suns, losers of consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 26, had won five of seven before being drubbed by Denver 116-97 on Thursday, ending the Nuggets’ 12-game losing streak in Phoenix. They lost consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 26 and by two of the three biggest margins of the season. The only loss bigger than Sunday’s blowout was a 121-96 loss to New York on Jan. 7.
The teams met for the first time since the Dec. 18 trade that sent Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to Orlando from Phoenix for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus.
Arenas’ 3-pointer capped a 13-1 run that put Orlando ahead 49-36 with 5:56 left in the half. Carter sank a 3-pointer, Brooks banked in a 7-foot runner and Gortat made a 15-footer as the shot clock expired in a 7-0 spurt that cut it to 54-48 with 4:09 remaining. But Howard banked in a 13-footer, then scored on a three-point play disputed loudly by Gentry and the crowd, and the Magic led 61-52 at the break.
Brooks made 8 of 10 shots, and had seven assists, in a 19-point first half.
”I’m still feeling it out,” Brooks said, ”finding out everybody, where they want the ball at, different spots, trying to figure out the offense, trying to watch Steve, see what he does and implement that, since this offense has been so successful.”
The Suns were outscored 26-13 in the third quarter, their second-lowest scoring period of the season. Orlando finished the third on an 11-1 run, the last five points by Howard, to lead 87-65 entering the fourth.
”My job is to dominate on both ends of the court and I like to get some blocks early just so they know they can’t come down the lane, and that sets the tone,” Howard said. ”That”s how we’ve got to play, with a lot of energy and we have to keep it up the whole game.”
Notes: The Magic play six of their next eight on the road. … The Magic had last won in Phoenix on Nov. 14, 2001. … For the second game in a row, the Suns blew a chance to move within a 1/2-game of idle Memphis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. … Brooks was 3 of 15 shooting in his previous two games, 8 of 14 in this one. … Phoenix was 6-0 in its previous six games after a loss. … The Magic starting front line outscored its Suns counterparts 56-13. … Phoenix is 0-3 without Nash this season and 9-20 without him in the last six-plus seasons.