Howard Super as Magic top Bobcats
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)
Stan Van Gundy is looking for consistent improvement from the Orlando Magic in the early stages of the NBA season, and that's what he continues to get.
Howard had 20 points, 24 rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. Four other players scored in double figures, led by Ryan Anderson's 23 points.
Van Gundy gave the performance a thumbs-up afterward, saying he thought the Magic built on a 94-78 victory over New Jersey on Thursday night in Orlando.
The Magic (3-1) raced to an 11-0 lead, led 56-43 at halftime, and never let the Bobcats closer than nine points in the second half.
''It was great, the best one yet,'' Van Gundy said. ''I think we've improved a little bit every night, and by far this was the best one yet. I thought we opened with tremendous energy. I thought we defended well throughout. We hit a stretch in the third quarter where we got a little sloppy and they hurt us, but then the rest of the way we finished it out well.
''I thought we made good decisions. There's really not much on there to be upset about tonight.''
Van Gundy said he was particularly pleased that the Magic were sharp in their second back-to-back of the season, after beating the Nets on Thursday.
''I was pleasantly surprised with our energy on the second night, because it's been an issue in terms of a short camp and the whole thing,'' Van Gundy said. ''I thought our guys handled big minutes and did a pretty good job.''
It all started with Howard, though. It was his second straight 20-rebound night, after he went for 16 points and 24 rebounds against the Nets.
''It makes it a lot easier for everyone when you have Dwight Howard on your team,'' Anderson said. ''It all starts with Dwight. I'm just shooting the ball when I'm open.''
Howard, 6-foot-11, used his size advantage over 6-8 Charlotte center Boris Diaw and backups DeSagana Diop and Byron Mullens. The only smudge on Howard's stat line was 6 of 14 from the free throw line.
''Dwight played very well out of the post,'' Van Gundy said. ''He tried to score when he was one on one, he threw the ball out when he was double-covered, he just made solid basketball plays.''
Meanwhile, the Magic were 12 of 28 from 3-point range.
''You can do one of two things against them,'' Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. ''You either double him or let him kill you. We started off that way and he was killing us. Then we came at him and they started hitting threes. There's not much we could have done tonight.''
The Bobcats (1-2) resorted to shooting jump shots most of the game, not even trying to challenge Howard. They ended up shooting just 36.1 percent from the field, with Corey Maggette going 6 of 15, Gerald Henderson 4 of 13, D.J. Augustin 3 of 11, and rookie Kemba Walker 1 of 9.
Maggette finished with 20 points, Augustin scored 14, Mullens added 12 and Diaw finished with 10.
''We knew this team, they come out early and they just run and get easy shots,'' Howard said. ''But we were able to share the ball and play inside-out. I think that's what you've got to do against a running team, because if you run with them, nine times out of 10 a team like Charlotte is going to win.''
The Bobcats were coming off a 96-95 loss to Miami on Wednesday night, and even though they had a day's rest, they looked like the team with the tired legs.
''It didn't seem like we had energy tonight,'' Silas said. ''The energy level was way down, it seemed. We got no fast-break buckets. We weren't shooting the ball well. It's just one of those games where nothing was happening in our favor tonight. At all.''