When I take over Adam Silver’s job as NBA Commissioner in the year 2035, mark my words, this Lakers/Magic nonsense will never happen again under my watch. Tonight, the NBA could’ve billed their duo of games as “homecoming night” in the league, with Dwight’s reunion with Orlando and Carmelo’s first time in Denver since strong arming his way out in 2011 and the media-sexy headlines. But they didn’t, and last night Dwight Howard’s first return to the city he treated like a two dollar hooker wasn’t anywhere to be found on cable television.
D12′s return to Disneyland was a successful one as the Lakers walked away with an (expected) victory over their apparent farm system in Orlando. From the jump, the commitment to feed Howard early and often was L.A.’s main objective. There were dunks, put backs, hooks and even some interactions with the fans who mercilessly booed him the entire night. The venom wasn’t the same as it was for another superstar who returned to his former stomping grounds in 2010, but a myriad of feelings resided in the air last night; love not being one of them.
Dwight ended up with a gaudy stat line of 39 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. The big story, however, resonated from the area of the court which has given him problems throughout his career – the free throw line. As they did in their December meeting in L.A., the Magic employed “Hack-A-Dwight” and, to be fair, worked admirably in the first half as Howard went 9-19 from the charity stripe. Jacque Vaughan went with the same plan of attack in the second half, only to have it blow up in his face.
Dwight went 16-20 in the second half, tying him with his own record of 39 free throw attempts in the game (25-39 overall). And that’s my problem with the intentional fouling strategy. Sure, use it while it works, but at some point throughout the course of the game the coaching staff has got to smarten up and at least attempt to play the guy straight up when the strategy is no longer effective. Sticking with “Hack” allowed someone like Kobe to never truly find a groove, but Orlando ultimately gave up 25 free points to one person in a game where the final score was decided by nine points. It was almost as if Orlando was saying, “Yes, we’re probably going to lose, but if we win, we’re going to do so in the most embarrassing way possible for you.”
Ultimately, a great game for Dwight and Laker fans whose confidence is beginning to swell larger than Sofia Vergara’s tits. Tonight, Dwight truly returns home to Atlanta as the Lakers take on a Hawks team suddenly struggling to avoid the eighth spot.
Bonus: Here’s that kiss the title alluded to.