ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Dwight Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic extended their recent dominance over the New Jersey Nets with a 105-90 victory Friday night.
Howard finished 9 for 13 shooting to power the Magic to their second straight win since they were routed by Miami last week. The NBA’s twice reigning defensive player of the year also gave Brook Lopez fits in one of the worst offensive games of the young center’s career.
Lopez missed his first 13 shots but finished with 10 points, most coming far too late to prevent New Jersey’s third straight loss. Orlando has beaten the Nets four consecutive times.
Jameer Nelson scored 20 points, Vince Carter had 19 points and the Magic went on a 17-4 run to go ahead by 20 points early in the fourth cruise to victory.
It was the tightest game the Magic have had all season — including the preseason, where they won all seven games by an average of almost 25 points. Even their lone loss to the Heat was a 26-point rout that was never close.
Orlando’s best work in this game came at the defensive.
Howard had Lopez completely out of rhythm and heaving up off-balance shots, fumbling the ball and throwing it away. About the only thing that kept it close was that backup Kris Humphries made his first five shots from the floor.
No. 2 overall pick Derrick Favors also had a pair of highlight dunks, including a one-handed slam over an outstretched Marcin Gortat, to help New Jersey go ahead 51-41 in the second quarter.
The Nets couldn’t sustain the effort with their big man struggling.
Howard returned to the game and restored order, anchoring a Magic rally with some creative hooks and spin moves. They scored seven points in the final minute of the half to trim New Jersey’s lead to 51-48.
Howard was even more potent and powerful following the break, grabbing an alley-oop pass from Nelson for a dunk over Lopez. Howard continued to dominate New Jersey’s front line, and Mickael Pietrus made three 3-pointers in the third quarter — sticking his tongue out and raising his arms up after the last one — to help Orlando go ahead 87-67 and all but finish off the Nets.
NOTES: R&B group Boyz II Men sang the national anthem before the game. … Magic PF Ryan Anderson was acquired from New Jersey in 2009 but is still good friends with Lopez. Anderson said he didn’t hear from Lopez when the Nets arrived Thursday night so he sent him a text message. “He says, ‘Guess where I am?'” Anderson recalled. “And I said, ‘You’re at Disney World, aren’t you?'” Correct. Anderson said Lopez is actually a huge theme-park fan and often comes to the Orlando-area attractions.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)