ORLANDO, Fla. – Dwight Howard has a message to fans sitting courtside: Look out.
Howard had 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks, and the Orlando Magic spoiled Hedo Turkoglu’s return with a 118-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had fans dodging balls in the stands at near the rate of the burritos being chucked into seats with pressurized guns between timeouts by the arena’s entertainment crew.
“You pay to sit that close, beware,” Howard joked.
Rashard Lewis added 21 points and Matt Barnes had 20 to help the Magic cruise to their second straight win with some potent three-point shooting. Orlando was 14-for-30 from beyond the arc.
The Raptors had a tough time even getting shots near the rim.
“I thought he might have popped the ball one time when he blocked somebody’s shot,” Barnes said of Howard. “It sounded like the ball was going to pop, he blocked the ball so hard.”
It wasn’t exactly a warm welcome home for Turkoglu.
He was showered with a mix of cheers and boos and scored 14 points in the arena where he was a fan favourite before parting ways in the off-season. Turkoglu also had four rebounds and four assists, not nearly enough to prevent the Raptors from losing for the fourth time in five games.
“I wish I could go back to Toronto with a better result,” he said. “We tried to be aggressive, but he’s a shot blocker. We have to take better shots and not let him have eight blocks.”
Led by their big man, the Magic turned things into a high-flying affair.
They had a series of slams and blocks, with Howard starting things in the first quarter with a two-handed, alley-oop dunk from Vince Carter that took Toronto players crowded around the rim by surprise. Howard had another high-flying slam in the second quarter that started a three-point play on a pass Anthony Johnson just lobbed up for grabs, letting his big man finish over Amir Johnson.
There were plenty more highlights on the other end.
Some of Howard’s swats went so far, so fast that teammates started to ask their centre to catch the ball or tap it in-bounds. Howard said he’s working on that but, he admits, big-time rejections are much more fun.
“It sounds better. And the crowd, I think their reaction is better when you block one and it hits somebody in the front row,” Howard said.
There was a familiar face that kept things close early.
Not quite the pick-and-roll point forward who led the Magic in scoring in the NBA finals last season, Turkoglu still managed to get things done for Toronto. He was potent from outside and clever at drawing fouls – 8-for-8 from the line in the first half – to help the Raptors trim the deficit to five.
It was the first time Turkoglu played in Orlando since opting out of the final year of his contract with the Magic, who acquired Carter in a trade with New Jersey just prior. Orlando then sent Turkoglu to Toronto in a sign-and-trade deal, parting ways with a popular player who teammates called “Mr. Fourth Quarter” for his late-game heroics.
Turkoglu got a big ovation during introductions, but for most of the game, the boos drowned out the cheers.
“Anybody who’s booing him really can’t be a Magic fan,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We wouldn’t have gotten to where we got to last year without him.”
This time, the Magic fared just fine without “Turk.”
A pair of three-pointers by Lewis late in the half capped a Magic run that made Turkoglu’s efforts disappear, going ahead 66-54 at intermission behind Howard’s defensive play.
“He blocked shots, and he just changed so many,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “He took a lot of our stuff away.”
Before the Raptors could mount any kind of rally, the Magic threw in a few more acrobatics.
Howard and Carter hooked up again in the third quarter, when Orlando’s do-it-all centre cut down the baseline, skied high to take the pass and finished with a one-handed slam that pushed the Magic’s lead to 81-64. And the rout was on. But even with the pair of alley-oops they teamed up for, Carter said the most impressive highlights were Howard’s blocks.
“Two of them went over my head,” Carter said. “After that, I don’t know what happened.”
NOTES: Turkoglu spent the last few minutes before the game warming up on the Magic’s end of the court, taking shots with his former teammates. … Magic reserve centre Adonal Foyle was active for the first time since he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in October.