Dwight Howard hears the sales pitch all the time.
Team owner Rich DeVos has spoken with Howard to explain why he thinks Howard should remain with the Orlando Magic. Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins talks or texts with Howard almost every day, though not always about Howard's future. And many of the 18,000 people who pack Amway Center during home games shout at Howard or wave signs or do both.
But perhaps few things carry as much weight as the kind of victory that occurred Wednesday night. Fueled by an avalanche of 3-pointers and Howard's power game near the basket, the Magic beat the Miami Heat 102-89.
“Just giving the same energy and effort every night is the big thing,” Howard said. “This is a great win considering the loss we had against the Clippers. But we have to erase this game and move on to the Hawks."
Howard sounded unswayed and, to be sure, he hasn't said anything publicly that would indicate he has moved off his trade request. And, remember: The Magic split their regular-season series with the Heat last season, but Howard still decided he wants to move on to a larger market.
On Wednesday, however, the Magic put together one of their best games this season. They made 17 of their franchise-record 42 attempts from 3-point range, and in the second half, they shut down Miami's transition game.
Ryan Anderson scored a team-high 27 points, and Howard added 25 points, 24 rebounds and four assists.
"Sometimes you've got to pick your poison," Miami's LeBron James said. "But we gave up both tonight, and they're an extremely tough team to beat when they're making the 3s and the big fella's getting what he wants."
Orlando's inside-outside attack, plus James' own disappearance on offense in the second half, helped the Magic withstand Dwyane Wade's game-high 33-points.
James finished with 17 points and 10 assists, but he didn't score in the second half until he sank a pair of free throws with 2:13 remaining in regulation.
By then, it was too late.
At first, Orlando (16-10) looked much more energetic than Miami (19-7), which was playing the second game of a back-to-back.
The Magic took a 17-point lead with just under eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.
They went ahead 44-27 on an Anderson trey, Orlando's eighth 3-pointer in its first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.
"It's fun playing like that," Anderson said. "We moved the ball. We had opportunities to score because we were really penetrating their defense, kicking the ball out, getting the ball down to Dwight."
The Magic could have kept a double-digit lead, but they failed to run back quickly on defense. Trailing 44-27, the Heat scored 12 of their next 23 points on fastbreaks.
That must have infuriated Stan Van Gundy. About 90 minutes before tipoff, he told the press that his team had to — absolutely had to — avoid turnovers because the Heat would make the Magic pay in transition.
But it turned out that turnovers didn’t hurt as much as a lack of urgency.
Eight of the Heat’s 12 second-quarter fastbreak points came off missed Magic baskets, not turnovers. One of the defensive principles Van Gundy and his assistant coaches preach is the importance of sprinting back on defense, and the Magic failed to do that in the second quarter.
Wade ended the half by making six consecutive Miami baskets, beginning with a baseline drive and dunk to cut the Orlando lead to 51-40 and ending with a 20-foot jumper to pull the Heat within 53-50.
Van Gundy told his players to step up their transition defense at halftime, Anderson said.
Miami scored only two fastbreak points the rest of the way.
The tide turned in the third quarter.
The Magic kept up the pressure in the fourth.
J.J. Redick drained a 21-foot jumper early in the period to extend Orlando’s lead to 84-65 with 8:57 left in regulation.
The basket brought the announced crowd of 18,972 inside Amway Center to its feet and forced the Heat to call a timeout.
It looked like Orlando would cruise, but Miami scored nine consecutive points to trim its deficit to 84-74 with 6:40 left.
Redick responded with a 3 to give the Magic some breathing room.
And after Miami cut the lead to 89-80, Nelson hit a stepback 3.
“I thought we did a good job gathering ourselves,” Van Gundy said. “We held our composure. Nobody seemed the least bit worried. We just kept making plays and then knocked down a couple of big shots.”
Magic officials thought they had gained some momentum with Howard when the team opened the season with an 11-4 record. Then, team officials worried they lost ground with Howard when the team fell in five of its next six games.
They hope what occurred Wednesday — plus the extra year and 7.5 percent annual raises only they could offer if they keep him past the trade deadline — will help keep him.
Keeping Howard, now that would be the real victory.
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