All of a sudden, visions of an otherwise forgettable Orlando-Golden State game last season jumped out to us during the Magic’s stunning win over the Lakers in Los Angeles on Sunday night. When it became clear Dwight Howard was going to be fouled by his former team over and over again, to the tune of 21 free-throw attempts, we were reminded of the time Golden State chose to willfully foul Howard and put the game in his hands, 15 feet from the hoop, on an NBA-record 39 attempts. He only made 21 of those last January and even though the strategy was mathematically iffy, it worked. It did so again Sunday in L.A. in the Magic’s 113-103 win. Even with an almost all-new staff and braintrust there, this was a case of a single game they wanted to win whatever way necessary to get back at Howard, whose trade-me antics last season were so melodramatic a soap opera screenwriter would have rejected the script. We wish there was an option where the broadcast could have subbed in Stan Van Gundy‘s commentary for the play-by-play. … Howard went for 21 and 15 but made just nine free throws. Coupled with a sieve-like defense in the final quarter, it was two strikes against L.A. It also showed how few chances Howard got at good looks the rest of the game, a compliment to Big Baby Davis (23 and 15) and Nikola Vucevic (17 and 12), a combination that thoroughly and surprisingly was the better post combo on the night. Pau Gasol didn’t even leave the bench the last half of the fourth quarter after being benched after his 11 points and seven boards and you can almost set your watch to a great Kobe Bryant (34 points) quote to follow a bad Pau game these days: “Put your big-boy pants on” he offered this post-game. … At the time for the Magic the best piece of the Orlando-Philly-Lakers trade that swapped Dwight to L.A. was getting Arron Afflalo (30 points). He didn’t do well going one-on-one against another shooting guard star this week, getting just five points while Joe Johnson landed body blows for Brooklyn, but against Kobe he had energy on both ends. J.J. Redick also split time on Kobe but is showing how his aggression toward the hoop is improving his game with 14 points and seven dimes. … A report out of Minneapolis after Ricky Rubio‘s first practice leads with this: The T-Wolves point guard, in his first practice back from major knee surgery, has already put a dime between a defender’s legs. He also called the practice “weird” because he hasn’t done it since March. We can’t wait to see Rubio back in action (expected to be by Christmas), where he’ll make Minnesota a League Pass favorite overnight to catch his playmaking. … Cover your eyes, Hornets fans, because No. 1 pick Anthony Davis isn’t walking through that door â€” in uniform, anyway â€” for another week. His injuries/concussion are reported to be getting better but the time away from said ailments has thrown his conditioning out of whack. … Hit the jump to read about two trends, one recent, one old: A Knicks home win and a ‘Sheed tech. ...
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