Nelson, Howard lead Magic past Lakers

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Orlando Magic aren’t doing it with smoke and mirrors.

With Dwight Howard a power in the middle, Jameer Nelson and his backcourt mates sharpshooting from outside, the Magic showed their multiple talents with a 109-103 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Howard had 25 points and 20 rebounds, and Nelson scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter to help Orlando win its sixth in a row. Bryant had 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for Los Angeles, but missed two jumpers in the waning moments.

“It was a big-time win,” Nelson said. “We were in Laker Town, and the atmosphere was unbelievable. It definitely was a playoff atmosphere. The intensity level was high and they came at us every play, offensively, defensively and on the boards.

“They were trying to out-tough us, but we got tough when we needed to. We have a swagger about ourselves, knowing we’re going to get back in the game if we’re down.”

Howard, who posted his NBA-high 20th double-double of the season, said, “It feels good, man. It was a great win. I’m trying to calm down right now. I’m so hyped up, I feel like I can go play two more quarters.”

Although the win gave the Magic a better record (32-8) than the Lakers (31-9), Orlando hasn’t been getting nearly as much attention.

“We’re flying under the radar. Noboby’s really noticing us,” Nelson said. “At the same time, it’s fine with us. Everybody in this locker room knows the type of team we have and knows what we’re capable of.

“So as long as we continue to win, we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the year. Every year our team has gotten better. We’re definitely a lot more mature because of our playoff experience. But we haven’t reached our goal, and that’s to win a championship.”

Bryant, whose triple-double was the 15th of his career and first since April 1, 2005, said the Magic played well.

“They made some tough shots. He (Nelson) made some really, really huge, tough shots. He’s playing at an all-star level.

“And we didn’t do a good job corralling (Howard), staying on top of him. We let him catch the ball deep and finish.”

Nelson scored 10 of Orlando’s final 12 points, including hitting one of his three 3-pointers with 35 seconds left to put the Magic up 104-103. He was good on four free throws afterward as the Magic built a five-point lead.

All the Orlando starters scored in double figures, with Rashard Lewis getting 15, Hedo Turkoglu 13 and Courtney Lee 12.

Lamar Odom had 17 points for Los Angeles, and Vladimir Radmanovic had 15, all coming on his 5-of-8 shooting treys. Andrew Bynum had 14 points and three rebounds, but scored just two points after halftime and again was outplayed by Howard, who also blocked three shots.

Although they didn’t match their NBA record-setting spree of 23 3-pointers they made in their last game, the Magic had a telling edge over the Lakers from beyond the arc, going 12-of-28 to Los Angeles’ 9-of-26. Lewis hit four of his eight 3-point attempts and Nelson came up big at the right time, hitting all of his 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter after missing the three he took earlier in the game.

The Magic were coming off a 139-107 rout of Sacramento where they established the league record for 3-point baskets.

The teams juggled the lead back and forth in the final 12 minutes, with 15 lead changes and the seven ties before the Magic got a comfortable lead in the closing seconds.

Down 54-44 early in the third quarter, the Magic put together a 19-6 run to take their first lead of the game, at 63-60 on Lee’s 3-pointer midway through the period. They went on to pull out to a 69-60 lead, but the Lakers came back to retake the lead at 75-74 on Pau Gasol’s tip-in just before the buzzer ending the third.

Notes

The Lakers were coming off a 112-111 loss at San Antonio. … In the Lakers’ 106-103 win Dec. 20 in Orlando, Bynum had three points and five fouls in only 12 minutes … G Sasha Vujacic returned for Los Angeles after missing two games with back spasms, but he didn’t score in his 13 minutes on the court. … Bryant had 41 points while Nelson scored 27 in the Magic’s win over Los Angeles in Orlando last month. Bryant scored 28 in the Magic’s last visit to Los Angeles, when they beat the Lakers 104-97 on Dec. 2, 2007.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Orlando
J. Nelson Jameer Nelson
9-18,  28 Pts
6 Rebs, 8 Assists
 LA Lakers
K. Bryant Kobe Bryant
10-26,  28 Pts
13 Rebs, 11 Assists

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Friday, Jan 16