Magic 106, Spurs 104
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The first game-winning basket of Dwight Howard’s career was so impressive, even the losers were amazed by it.
Howard leaped high over Tim Duncan to grab a long inbounds pass from Hedo Turkoglu with one hand and dunk it with 0.2 seconds left, giving the Orlando Magic a 106-104 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
“Dwight had to go up and touch the clouds over Timmy and get it one-handed and put it in,” the Spurs’ Brent Barry said. “It was a remarkable play.”
It was the first game-winning shot of Howard’s career at any level and finished off a night in which he scored 30 points and had eight rebounds. He also blocked three shots, including one by Spurs guard Tony Parker with 0.8 seconds left to set up the game-winning play.
“Thank God we have an unbelievable athlete capable of making an unbelievable play like that,” Magic coach Brian Hill said. “Everything had to be perfect, starting with the pass and Dwight just finished it off the way only he can.”
Magic rookie J.J. Redick added a season-high 16 points, including a critical three-point play in the final minute.
“That was just freak athleticism,” Redick said of Howard’s play. “We’ve all seen spectacular lobs and dunks, but I told him after the game: ‘Dude, I’ve never seen anything like that in that situation.”’
Added Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: “That was a fantastic catch by a really dynamic young player. But Dwight was great the whole night. It was a fantastic win for Orlando.”
Hill said his team needed a victory. The Magic had lost 11 of 14 and looked on their way to number 12 when San Antonio went in front 44-26 with 5:44 left in the second quarter.
However, Hill went to a three-guard lineup of Redick, Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo, and Orlando slowly clawed its way back into the game. Nelson, who had a season-high 31 points, scored 16 straight for the Magic at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth. Arroyo had 12 points and seven assists.
They helped erase what had been an 11-point third-quarter deficit.
“Beating a good team like San Antonio has to give you confidence, especially at home,” Nelson said. “To get that kind of energy and electricity from your fans really has to help you out.”
San Antonio led 103-97 with 1:54 to play on Manu Ginobli’s driving layup, but the Magic scored the next five points, including a three-point play by Redick. His layup and free throw made it 103-102 with 46 seconds to play.
Bruce Bowen missed two free throws for San Antonio with 27 seconds left, but Parker rebounded and was fouled. He made only one of two free throws to push the Spurs’ lead to 104-102.
Nelson tied it at 104, weaving inside heavy traffic and lobbing in a 15-footer with 5.9 seconds to play. Howard blocked Parker’s driving layup attempt with 0.8 left to give Orlando a shot at the victory.
The Magic center jumped high over Duncan to grab Turkoglu’s pass from the right sideline and throw it down. San Antonio couldn’t get off a shot before time expired.
Nelson scored 16 straight points for Orlando at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth to erase what had been an 18-point deficit. His 20-footer with 10:28 left in the game gave Orlando its first lead since the opening minute, 85-84.
The Spurs shot 55 percent in the first half and led by as many as 18 points. Barry, who had nine points in the first five minutes of the game, hit a runner in the lane to make it 44-26 with 5:44 left in the second period.
San Antonio led 59-48 at halftime before the Magic went to a three-guard lineup and shot their way back into the game. Redick and Carlos Arroyo joined Nelson midway through the third period with the Magic trailing 74-63 and sparked a surge. Nelson scored the Magic’s last 11 points of the period, including a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds that tied the game at 80 going into the fourth quarter.
The Magic are the only NBA team never to have won a season series against San Antonio. Howard is 33-of-37 from the field in his last three games. Michael Finley was only 5-of-17 from the field with 16 points in his last three games before scoring 18 against Orlando. … Redick has scored in double figures in three of his last four games after doing it only once in the first 50 games.