ORLANDO - At least for one night, life without All-NBA center Dwight Howard doesn't look so bad.
The rebuilt Orlando Magic, starting without Howard for the first time in eight seasons, opened a new era Friday night with a 102-89 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
Forward Glen Davis, who has happily accepted the new leadership role, led everyone with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Sixth man J.J. Redick had 21 points and six assists. The Magic never trailed after the first few minutes, leading by as many as 23 points in the second half.
The Magic, already low on experience, lost veteran Hedo Turkoglu in the third period with a broken left hand, but it was overshadowed by a glowing opening night performance.
"It's one game, but it's a game to let everyone know I'm here, to seize the moment and step into a new role," Davis said. "We're building, and this is the start. It's a whole different culture now, and we're planting the seeds."
Even without Howard, who forced his trade to the Los Angeles Lakers and caused the franchise to take a rebuilding approach, the Magic dominated the middle against the Nuggets, who struggled offensively for their second consecutive loss.
The Magic scored 60 points from inside the lane, moving the ball crisply and efficiently to get easy shots. They didn't wait for double teams, which is what they always did with Howard.
Denver was led by forward Danilo Gallinari with 23 points and eight rebounds. Ty Lawson had 12 points and seven assists. The Nuggets (0-2) play in Miami Saturday night.
"Orlando played like we want to play," said Denver coach George Karl. "Right now, we're searching for some confidence. Offensively, we're beating ourselves with fundamental things we should be doing better."
The Magic led 78-68 after three periods, losing much of a 21-point cushion they held at intermission, but never losing control of the game.
The Nuggets had no answer around the basket for Davis, who hit 13 of his 25 shots. Although they struggled to score during the exhibition schedule, the Magic had no problem scoring against the Nuggets.
"It was fun to be part of this one," said first-year Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, who was presented the game ball after the game. "A great first night to see where we are, and to see where we're going. Everyone who came into the game contributed, and that's fun basketball."
Nikola Vucevic, who replaced Howard as the Magic's starting center, was saddled with foul trouble early and finished with six points and four rebounds. Reserve center Josh McRoberts had nine points and seven rebounds.
Forward Andrew Nicholson, one of four rookies on the Magic roster, made his NBA debut midway in the third quarter. He had two points and two rebounds.
The Nuggets shot poorly, hitting only 32 of 84 shots. Veteran Andre Iguodala, obtained from Philadelphia as part of the four-team trade that sent Howard to Los Angeles, struggled with just nine points.
"Nothing surprises me at all," Iguodala said. "Expectations are high, but we're not there yet. We just have to stay confident because that's a huge part of your team. A lot of it is timing."
The Magic led 58-37 at halftime, riding the hot starts of Davis and Redick.
Davis had 15 points and six rebounds by intermission. Redick had 15 points and five assists in the first two periods.
The Magic had a 10-0 run in the first quarter and a 9-0 run in the second, taking control early after their glitzy, opening night introductions.
The Nuggets, who play Saturday night in Miami to wrap up their first road trip, were outhustled and outshot. The Magic hit 24 of their first 42 shots (57.1 percent) and had no trouble getting fast-break baskets.
Notes: The rebuilt Magic have 10 new players on their 15-man roster, including eight who were active Friday night, along with an entirely new coaching staff and a new general manager. "I just told the guys, 'Enjoy the now,'" said first-year coach Jacque Vaughn. "This only happens once." . . . . . . In the crowd Friday night was University of North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams, who coached Vaughn at Kansas. The two have remained close, and Williams wanted to see Vaughn make his coaching debut. Vaughn became the first Williams' player to become an NBA head coach. . . . Karl was asked whether he remembered his first game as an NBA head coach. It was in 1984 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. "We lost our first. We started the season, 0-9," he said. "I only remember my first win."