ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Orlando Magic didn’t spend much time hoisting their Eastern Conference championship banner.
They didn’t take long to adjust to a revamped roster, either.
Dwight Howard(notes) had 21 points and 15 rebounds, Vince Carter(notes) scored 15 points and the new-look Magic rolled to a 120-106 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
“You look around,” Carter said, “this is like heaven.”
Ryan Anderson(notes) added 16 points, and Jason Williams(notes) had 15 points to highlight a deep Magic bench. Orlando went ahead by 23 points at the half, scored 100 through three quarters and showed no signs of a finals hangover after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers on the same floor in June.
Still, some spotty defense had Magic coach Stan Van Gundy mocking the success his team enjoyed offensively.
“Nobody has ever gone 82-0,” Van Gundy said.
“This is a heck of a team we played tonight,” new Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said. “They got away from us a little bit in the first half with some layups in the open floor, but the 3s destroyed us.”
The Magic didn’t spend much time embracing last season’s success.
The Eastern Conference championship banner was already hanging from the rafters before the game. A video montage of their playoff run only lasted about three minutes, and Van Gundy—in his usual play-the-game-already attitude—was stretched out in his chair on the bench during opening night introductions.
A perfect preseason behind them, the Magic showed signs that those exhibition wins weren’t a fluke. They went down by five points early in the first quarter before showing why so many have them picked to again contend with Boston and Cleveland for a conference title.
Carter took a near halfcourt alley-oop pass from Matt Barnes(notes) and finished left-handed, his mother in the fourth row among the throngs in the arena brought to their feet in celebration for the hometown kid.
Carter, a Daytona Beach native who has made his home in Orlando for years, followed that with a 3-pointer to highlight a furious Magic push that put them ahead by 23 points at the half. The Magic eventually led by as many as 31 points.
“With all the surrounding talent that we have, it really cuts down on the starters’ minutes and keeps us fresh,” Carter said.
Orlando was still missing a key piece.
The Magic are without Rashard Lewis(notes) for the first 10 games after the All-Star forward was suspended by the league for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone. Lewis posted a link on his Twitter page to a video of him exercising on a stationary bike at his home about two hours before tipoff.
“We have nine more games to play without him,” Howard said. “Hopefully we can get better before then.”
Philadelphia didn’t show quite the same energy.
Having Brand back didn’t help much, and although Louis Williams(notes) had 18 points, his reign as the full-time point guard was shaky. The Sixers were sloppy and resembled little of the team that took the Magic to six games in the first round of the playoffs last season.
The only real fight Philadelphia showed all night was when Speights went face-to-face with Howard after the big men got tangled up underneath the rim in the second quarter. Howard was called for a technical foul on the play.
The Sixers never got so close again.
“He is very strong and athletic,” Speights said. “That is a good learning experience for me. I learned a lot from this game.”
Notes: Most of the Magic players said during the morning shootaround that they watched the Lakers’ championship ring ceremony Tuesday night. Howard said it was difficult to observe but joked that “the rings are very pretty.” Van Gundy said seeing Los Angeles get its rings brought back a lot of bad memories from the finals. “You sort of relive the whole thing,” Van Gundy said. “Not pleasant.” … Tiger Woods, a central Florida resident, sat courtside but didn’t return to his seat for the second half with the Magic leading big.