The timing of the trade, though, left the Bobcats as no match for one of the league’s top centers.
Not that the expansion Bobcats have ever been able to contain Howard since they entered the league at the same time in 2004. Mohammed may help, but few have been able to stop Howard.
“Obviously we missed the big body tonight,” coach Sam Vincent said. “We believe in the future that will make us a better team.”
Howard, who recorded his NBA-leading 20th double-double, would have had an even bigger night if not for 11-of-20 shooting from the free throw line. Howard was 11-of-16 from the field and had four blocks.
Hedo Turkoglu added 22 points for the Magic, who improved to an NBA-best 12-3 on the road and snapped out of their recent doldrums after their surprising 16-4 start.
But it took a while. The Bobcats built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter. Coach Stan Van Gundy may have worn a microphone for the national television game, but little could likely be used in a family broadcast.
“You can’t play lethargic in this league and expect to win,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve been doing that lately.”
After falling behind 55-42, the energy returned. The Magic outscored Charlotte 34-9 over the next 13 minutes. And they did it by going inside. Orlando had 50 points in the paint and held a 45-36 rebounding advantage.
“He questioned our toughness, which he should have done,” Magic guard Jameer Nelson said of his coach.
Raymond Felton scored 18 points, and Gerald Wallace added 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting for Charlotte, which lost for the ninth time in 11 games. Emeka Okafor had 16 points and 12 rebounds, but was again outplayed by Howard in a matchup of the top two picks in the 2004 draft.
Brezec, who was told of the trade as he was warming up, was replaced in the starting lineup by Ryan Hollins. He picked up three fouls in five minutes, forcing little-used Othella Harrington to guard Howard for long stretches without success.
It left the Bobcats waiting for Mohammed’s arrival. They were hoping he’d fly to Charlotte on Saturday, take a physical and fly to Atlanta in time for Saturday’s game against the Hawks.
“I think he’s going to give us a presence inside, and hopefully more of a defensive stopper,” guard Matt Carroll said.
The Bobcats, who shot over 50 percent for the first time this season Wednesday in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, shot 56 percent in the first half. Felton’s long jumper capped an 18-4 run and put Charlotte ahead 55-42 early in the third quarter.
Then Turkoglu hit consecutive 3-pointers and Orlando took control.
The lead would have been larger had Orlando not missed 12 of its first 17 free throws. Howard was the biggest culprit, missing eight of his first nine.
Howard, though, made his final five attempts, ending any hopes of a Charlotte comeback.
“I don’t know what was going on tonight,” Howard said. “I was shooting them hard, shooting them soft. But the main thing was, at the end of the game I tried to make my free throws as best as I could.”
Magic G Carlos Arroyo missed his second straight game with a sore left foot. While an MRI on Thursday was negative, Arroyo was having difficulty walking and said he’d likely also miss Saturday’s game against Memphis. “I can’t go out there and pivot, jump, move or run,” Arroyo said. … The Bobcats were featured all day on ESPN, which televised the game. Even the morning shootaround was covered live as part of an “all-access” concept suggested by Bobcats owner Bob Johnson.