Magic Hold Off Lakers For 96-94 Victory


The Orlando Magic led for most of the way but had to fend a late rally led by Kobe Bryant to hold off the defending NBA champions. Bryant scored 18 fourth quarter points and finished with 34 for the game but the Magic got 25 points from Vince Carter, 15 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists from Jameer Nelson and 15 points and 16 rebounds from Dwight Howard to win a game that Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy described as “just as battle.”


Statistically, the Magic and the Lakers are the second and third best defensive teams in the NBA but it was late game sharp-shooting that dominated down the stretch. Both defenses did play well, but Kobe Bryant shot the Lakers back into the game, scoring 18 fourth quarter points and a three-pointer by Matt Barnes that extended Orlando’s lead to six with 1:09 to play might have been the biggest shot of the game.

However, for a majority of the game, these teams lived up to their reputations as defensive stoppers. Bryant, who finished the game with 34 points on 12-of-30 shooting had just 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting through three quarters and did not make a shot during the third quarter, which allowed the Magic to build a double-digit lead entering the final quarter.

Mickael Pietrus and Matt Barnes mostly shared the task of guarding Bryant and they couldn’t have done a much better job. Barnes frustrated Kobe throughout the night, landing on him after a dunk and drawing a technical foul (actually a double technical, since Barnes was deservedly called for one as well). Later in the game, Barnes walked right into Bryant after Bryant was called for a foul. At first, it appeared that Barnes was getting into the head of Bryant, but Bryant laughed off that question and rightfully so after Bryant’s huge fourth quarter that included what appeared to be the game-tying three-pointer with Barnes covering him (it was late reviewed and called a two-pointer).

Van Gundy described Bryant’s performance as “good.”

“He (Bryant) only shot 40 percent, he had 34 points, he’s a great, great player,” said Van Gundy. “The whole thing is we didn’t want to give him anything easy.

He did think Barnes did a solid job despite some mistakes.

“The thing with Matt is you know he’s going to battle, he’s going to get up and try,” Van Gundy told the media when asked about Barnes’ play.

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson described Barnes’ performance as feisty, but said his three-pointer is what hurt them most.

Dwight Howard had another word to describe it – “Mattacality,” claiming that they missed that during last year’s final.

The Magic did however the Lakers to an effective field goal percentage of 40.3% and Pau Gasol was the only Lakers starter to shoot better than 50% from the field.

Bryant and Barnes weren’t the only physical players on the court but Howard said he knew that coming in.

“They Lakers are a big team, with a big lineup,” said Howard. “They have big, strong guys that come off the bench so that type of game is what we expected. We just wanted to play our brand of basketball and get the job done.”

Offensively, Vince Carter was the star for the Magic. Carter, who couldn’t get many good looks early on hit a couple of shots but did an excellent job of driving and getting to the free throw line. He shot 14 free throws in the game, making 13. Carter was just 5-of-10 from the field but because of his ability to get to the charity stripe, he wound up with 25 points. Carter finished with a eFG% of 60% and a true shooting percentage of 75%. Carter did turn the ball over three times but overall, his recent string of outstanding decision making continued.

Jameer Nelson also had some turnover issues but played a very good game. He had some trouble shooting the ball (he was 5-of-14 from the field), but he got his teammates involved (7 assists) and he really crashed the glass, grabbing 9 rebounds. Many of his teammates were shocked at that total and Matt Barnes claimed that Nelson was “stealing rebounds” while Dwight Howard gave Nelson credit, calling him “hands down, the best dwarf in the history of the NBA.”

Much like last year during the regular season, the Lakers could not guard Nelson. Nelson consistently beat his man off of the dribble all game long. After the game, I asked Nelson about that.

“I just continued to attack,” Nelson said. One thing is, if I feel like I can beat my man, I can get into the lane.”

And Nelson has proven that he can make plays from there.

Dwight Howard has a rough night offensively. He was 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-8 from the line. Often, Howard doesn’t get the ball enough, but Van Gundy said that that was not his problem Sunday. Howard did protect the paint well even though Pau Gasol made a few nice plays inside and was even credited for a putback that Howard himself tipped in. Howard showed off his other skills. He made two brilliant passes to cutters in the fourth quarter. Rashard Lewis couldn’t finish but Jameer Nelson did, getting an easy layup. Howard was once again a monster on the glass, grabbing 16 rebounds. He also had 15 points, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

After the game, Howard said all that mattered was getting the victory. Van Gundy was quick to correct him, saying that the Magic gave a great effort and one that he was proud of.

Game Notes:

  • The Lakers lost their third straight game for the first time since they acquired Pau Gasol.
  • Howard has his league-leading 50th double-double.
  • Carter led the Magic in scoring for the 18th time this season.
  • Orlando outrebounded the Lakers, one of the biggest teams in the league, 50-to-39.
  • All five Magic starters scored in double figures.
  • Nelson is averaging 15.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.6 assists per game.
  • Howard put on a comedy show in the locker room and I’ll discuss that in a later poster.

Next Up: The Magic will play host to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

Final Thought: The Magic gave a great effort, which is something they must keep doing

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).