Magic 108, Nets 91

Dwight Howard aced his audition for the New Jersey Nets.

The Orlando center had 20 points and 17 rebounds, threw in a

couple of blocks and dunks and had Nets’ fans chanting his name

throughout the game in leading the Magic to a 108-91 victory on

Wednesday night in what was certainly a showcase for next month’s

trading-day deadline.

Here’s the situation heading into the March 15 deadline. Howard

has asked to be traded and the Magic stand to lose the six-time All

Star and the leading vote getter in this year’s exhibition game

unless he signs an extension before becoming a free agent in

July.

”Right now my only concern is winning games, playing as hard as

I can every night,” said Howard, who rocked the rim several times

with monster dunks in making 9 of 13 from the field.

”That’s the only thing I can control. I put all the other

thoughts aside. The only thing I can control is what I do on the

court.”

Many in the crowd of 15,364 did their best to recruit the

seven-year veteran for the Brooklyn-bound Nets.

He got the loudest cheers in the pre-game introductions and many

in the crowd had giants placards with his face on them, including

one next to a placard that had the face of Nets All-Star guard

Deron Williams.

”It’s a humbling experience,” Howard said. ”I wish more

people could see how it feels to go into another arena and have the

big faces, the posters. It’s a blessing and a whole new experience.

It feels good to have a great reception, not only here, but

everywhere I go.”

Howard didn’t disappoint the fans in leading the Magic to their

ninth straight win over the Nets, who proudly put posters of their

new arena in the hall leading to the Magic locker room.

Nets center Brook Lopez, who has been rumored to be part of the

package the Nets have dangled in front of Orlando, smiled when

asked how the fans reacted.

”It was interesting,” said Lopez, who had 15 points in his

second game back after surgery for a broken right foot. ”It was

definitely exciting. It brought great atmosphere to the game.”

Williams joked he was jealous about all the cheering for

Howard.

”I might not re-sign here because of that,” said Williams, who

had 23 points, six rebounds and eight assists to lead New Jersey,

which headed into the All-Star break having lost 8 of 11.

Glen Davis, who hit his first seven shots, added 16 points for

Orlando, which won for the eighth time in 11 games.

Rookie MarShon Brooks had a career-high 24 points for New

Jersey, which basically lost the game in the opening 12

minutes.

Orlando shot 62.5 percent in the opening quarter and jumped to a

34-17 lead. The final 4:16 were the key with the Magic closing the

quarter with a 13-2 spurt that came mostly with Howard sitting on

the bench.

Davis hit all four of his shots and Jameer Nelson, who also had

eight points in the period, hit a 3-pointer, one of 13 on the night

by Orlando.

Nets’ fans started chanting: ”We want Dwight” in the final

minute and it continued late in the game.

Orlando increased the lead to 22 points in the second quarter,

and the only time it was challenged was in the third quarter when

Williams put on a show for Howard, his good buddy, hitting three

straight 3-pointers and scoring 12 straight points to get the Nets

within 67-57.

After New Jersey blew a couple of chances to get the lead under

double figures, Orlando closed the quarter with a 16-9 spurt to

take an 87-70 lead into the final quarter.

JJ Redick started and ended the run with 3-pointers and Chris

Duhon, who came off the bench to slow down Williams on the

defensive end, sandwiched two 3-pointers and a jumper in scoring

eight straight points for the Magic.

Howard only played five minutes in the fourth quarter and then

took in the adulation.

”Obviously people are excited over potential stuff,” said

Magic forward Ryan Anderson, who added 14 points. ”It’s something

that we don’t let bother us or get in our heads. It’s what we

expected. It’s going to happen at a lot of places because obviously

we have the best guy in the NBA right now.”

Redick had 12 and Hedo Turkoglu and Nelson had 10 apiece for

Orlando.

NOTES: Nets played without power forward Kris Humphries, who was

sidelined with a strained left calf. … Nets F Shawne Williams had

surgery earlier in the day to repair an old fracture and remove two

small bone fragments in his left foot. He will miss the rest of the

season. …With all the injuries, this was the Nets’ 17th starting

lineup. …Orlando is 15-1 when it scores more than 100 points. …

Williams’ streak of 25-point games ended at six, tied for second

best in Nets history.