This was a win that really meant something for Orlando.
Article continues below ...
Dwight Howard had 31 points – 19 in the second half – and 13 rebounds as the Magic earned their first victory over a winning team in more than a month, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 89-75 on Sunday.
”This was kind of to prove to ourselves that we can beat the best teams in the NBA,” Orlando forward Ryan Anderson said. ”It was a must-win for us in a sense that we haven’t been playing well against good teams.”
In the nearly two months since they reshaped their roster with a pair of blockbuster trades, it’s been hard to tell whether the new-look Magic have the chops to make a deep playoff run. Those questions still linger, but a decisive win over the defending NBA champs was the starting point they’ve been looking for.
”We haven’t played an entire 48 minutes in a long time,” Anderson said. ”Everybody really came to play and we had everybody contribute tonight. We played great defense and just had it in our mind to play hard the entire game.”
Jason Richardson chipped in 12 points for the Magic.
Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum each scored 17 to lead the Lakers, held to a season low in points. Lamar Odom added 15 and Pau Gasol 11.
”Offensively we were really stagnant. Defensively we could have been a little better. But they had 89 points. It was a winnable game as far as points go. But we didn’t put any up,” Bynum said.
Orlando rebounded from a six-point home loss to New Orleans on Friday and a snapped a string of eight straight losses to teams with winning records. Orlando’s previous victory against a team above .500 was Jan. 8 at Dallas.
The Lakers’ loss snapped a four-game winning streak. They conclude their seven-game road trip with visits to Charlotte on Monday and Cleveland on Wednesday.
Howard scored his eighth straight point to give the Magic a 71-60 edge with just under 10 minutes to play.
The Lakers scored five straight, but the Magic quickly responded with six consecutive points – including a pair of baskets by Brandon Bass – to increase their lead to 77-65 at the 7:48 mark.
Bass, who missed the previous six games with a sprained left ankle, didn’t start Sunday, but made his first appearance since Jan. 31 with 7:56 left in the first quarter after Anderson picked up his second foul.
Howard was fouled on a putback dunk by Gasol with 5:38 left and his free throw made it 84-69. The Lakers closed within 13, but never got closer.
The game was physical throughout, and Howard left for good with 1:54 to play with a gash under his right eye courtesy of Odom during a fight for a rebound.
The Lakers started fast, but struggled to get uncontested shots in the second half. They shot just 39 percent for the game and 12 percent from 3-point range. Bryant went 6 for 12 from the field in the first half but finished 8 of 18.
The Magic weren’t much better from beyond the arc (7 of 23), but dominated on the boards with a 46-34 edge.
Bynum slowed down Howard some early, but appeared to lose his wind in the second half at times. The Lakers also struggled from the free throw line, going 7 of 15.
Bryant didn’t go to the line at all. The last time he didn’t attempt a free throw was March 24, 2010, against San Antonio.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he was pleased with the team defense that didn’t allow the Lakers many open looks on the perimeter.
”If you take away their easy baskets and their free throws … and if they’re going to shoot contested jump shots, you’re going to have to live with that,” he said. ”We got a little lucky tonight – Kobe didn’t shoot the ball as well as he’s capable of. But at least that’s what we left them with.”
The Lakers hopes of getting back in the game ended with a slow start to the fourth quarter.
”I told the team going into the fourth period, the first 3 minutes are really critical,” coach Phil Jackson said. ”We missed a couple shots and changed the game from a six- to a 12-point game just like that.”
Orlando led by six at halftime and came out of the locker room hot from the field as it built a 56-47 lead with 6:38 to play in the third.
Los Angeles used a 9-2 run to trim it to 58-56 with 3:37 left, but the Magic closed the quarter on a 9-4 spurt capped by a desperation heave turned alley-oop by Howard at the buzzer. Orlando guard Gilbert Arenas dribbled the ball off his foot in the closing seconds and tossed a wild shot toward the basket. Howard caught it and dunked it just before the horn to give the Magic a 67-60 lead entering the final quarter.
Howard said the next step for the Magic is not letting go of the feeling they left the court with Sunday.
”The way we played tonight is the way we have to play if we want to be considered a great team,” he said. ”If we continue to do that, there’s no doubt in my mind we have what it takes to win a championship.”
NOTES: The Lakers’ previous season low was 79 points on Dec. 21 in a loss at Milwaukee. … Lakers F Matt Barnes missed his 18th straight game with torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee. Jackson said he has been on the court doing some shooting recently and hopes he will begin practicing again when the team returns to Los Angeles. … The Magic set a franchise attendance record of 19,193. … The Magic led at the end of the first quarter for the first time in three games. … The Lakers were whistled for just three fouls in the first half.