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Orlando improves to 2-0 in post-Howard era

The SportsXchange

ORLANDO - The Orlando Magic may have lost their superstar, but they have found a balance that has carried them to a surprisingly good start this season.

The rebuilding Magic had five players score at least 15 points Sunday night, leading them to an impressive 115-94 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The post-Dwight Howard era has begun with a 2-0 start.

J.J. Redick led the charge with 24 points in his sixth-man role. Starters Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis each had 22 points, playing especially well in a second-half comeback. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.

The Magic hit nine of 11 shots from 3-point range.

The Suns (1-2) got 24 points from Luis Scola and 22 points from Michael Beasley, but neither was a factor in the second half. Center Marcin Gortat added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but the way we've won is a good sign for the future," said Afflalo, who played for Denver last season. "We showed we can take it to another level."

Phoenix played well in the first half but wilted after intermission when the Magic intensified their defense.

"We are a work in progress," said Suns coach Alvin Gentry. "I think we're struggling somewhat to have any consistency on offense right now. We've had our moments, but we're not there yet."

The Magic, who were without starters Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson, erupted for 40 points in the third quarter, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit and taking an 86-76 lead going into the fourth.

Orlando trailed through most of the first half and by as many as 14 points early in the third quarter, but it was a different team once Davis and Afflalo came alive midway in the third.

"There's not one guy here. We don't have an All-Star anymore," Davis said. "If we want to go somewhere, we have to go together, and this team will. Everyone knows that now. This is a new culture here, and we're in it together."

The Magic shot 67 percent in the third quarter when Davis had 14 of his points. The Magic didn't miss a 3-point shot until the fourth quarter.

Scola had 16 points by halftime, leading the Suns to a 56-46 lead at the break. The Suns had nine turnovers in those first two quarters, but they also blocked eight Magic shots.

Redick had 15 points by halftime, sparking Orlando early when he hit five of six shots in the first quarter for 11 consecutive points.

NOTES: The game was delayed for 13 minutes between the first and second periods after one net was torn off the rim by a soldier dunking off a trampoline. He was at the game for a Seats For Soldiers promotion and was asked to participate in the between-quarter entertainment. ... Undrafted rookie DeQuan Jones, from the University of Miami, replaced Turkoglu in the Magic's starting lineup. Turkoglu broke his left hand on opening night Friday and underwent surgery Saturday. Jones, who didn't play in the opener because of a sore groin, became the first rookie to start for the Magic since Courtney Lee in 2009. Turkoglu is expected to be out for at least four weeks. ... The Magic also were without point guard Nelson, who has a sore ankle, hamstring and groin. The team hopes he can return for Tuesday's game in Chicago against the Bulls. ... The Suns, like the Magic, are a team in transition after losing their superstar (Steve Nash) to the Los Angeles Lakers. "This is a whole new era for Suns basketball," Gentry said before the game. "No more run-and-gun, getting a shot in seven seconds or less." . . . The Magic is adjusting to life without Howard, who also wound up with the Lakers. ... Suns reserve Jermaine O'Neal, in his 17th NBA season, got his first points of the season Sunday in the second quarter.
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