Howard, Magic thump Rockets
When Dwight Howard was forced to the bench after his second foul
just 22 seconds into Orlando's game Wednesday night against
Houston, he worried he had ruined his chance to breal the Magic's
record for consecutive double-doubles.
Turns out there was no reason for concern.
Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds on a perfect shooting night to help the Magic cruise to a 110-92 victory over Houston. Howard scored all of his points in the last three quarters after sitting out until the second quarter after the early fouls. The All-Star was 11 of 11 on field goals and set a franchise record with his 19th straight double-double, breaking a tie with Shaquille O'Neal.
"I thought they jinxed me today because before they said this would be the game and then I got the two quick fouls and I was like, 'Oh man, I hope I don't get any more,"' Howard said. "But I just tried to come back and just be aggressive on both ends."
The Magic used a 37-point second quarter to take a commanding lead and the Rockets never really threatened after that.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy called Howard's work incredible and said he's never seen him play better than he has recently.
"I don't think it will just be a stretch," Van Gundy said. "I just think his game has matured. He's had stretches where he's played well. Now he's changed the way he plays. So he's not forcing his way to the basket. He's worked hard. he's made improvement and I think he's going to play at a high level all of the time."
Howard said it took some time for him to learn to slow down and be patient on offense.
"I understand now that you don't have to do everything 100 miles an hour," he said. "You don't have to do everything at a fast pace. Just let it happen."
Houston cut it to 97-88 on Chase Budinger's 3-pointer with about 3 1/2 minutes remaining. But Vince Carter hit a 3-pointer seconds later to stretch the lead back to double figures and send most of the fans heading to the exits.
Carter's 3 started an 8-0 run that insured Houston's third straight loss. He finished with 16 points. Jameer Nelson had 17 points and had nine assists for Orlando.
New acquisition Kevin Martin had two first points in the first half on free throws after going 0 for 5 on field goals. He was 1 for 9 late in the third quarter before scoring six straight points to start a 17-8 run that cut Orlando's lead to 11 at 85-74 entering the last quarter.
Martin, one of four players acquired in last week's trade that sent Tracy McGrady to the Knicks, added four free throws at the end of that run and finished with 19 points.
"You know the main word around here for me is comfortable," Martin said. "The more comfortable I feel out there and the more I play with these guys, the better off we'll be."
Aaron Brooks led Houston with 24 points and Shane Battier had 14 points as the Rockets continue to adjust to their new lineup.
"It's obvious we are a team in search of a new identity and it's like an exhibition game for us but they count," Battier said. "We were trying to get guys on the same page. We will get it. I am confident we will get it."
Rockets coach Rick Adelman is working on building his up after all the recent changes.
"We have to figure out how we're going to win," he said. "We just lost whatever confidence we really had. We just kind of lost everything, I think with everything that's happened we just don't seem to play with the same energy and enthusiasm that we had before. We have to find a way to get that back."
The Magic led 23-18 after the first quarter despite Howard sitting on the bench for most of it.
He returned for the second quarter and immediately got going, scoring 10 points in the first six minutes of the quarter and had 12 points and eight rebounds by halftime. The Magic led by four before going on a 10-0 run to push the lead to 43-29 about 4 1/2 minutes before halftime.
Brooks hit a 3-pointer after that run before Orlando scored nine straight points to stretch its advantage to 52-32.
The Magic led 60-40 at halftime.
NOTES: Orlando's Rashard Lewis, who went to Elsik High School in a suburb of Houston, had 13 points. ... Orlando's 37 second quarter points are the most by a Houston opponent this season. ... Hilton Armstrong had two points and two rebounds in his Houston debut after last week's trade.