Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard - USA TODAY Sports
The Magic were never completely out of Tuesday's loss to Howard and the Lakers, but they were never in command either.
Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said Sunday night that Tuesday's matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, which marked the return of Dwight Howard to Orlando, would be "just another game." Magic fans can unanimously disagree with Nelson on his statement.
It wasn't just another game. Why else would more than 200 media members show up to a supposedly meaningless regular season game?
Tuesday was a drama, a frenzy, and a circus. But whatever you want to call it, there will always be tension brewing between Howard and his former teammates. Howard and the Lakers earned a 106-97 victory behind Howard's 39 points, 16 rebounds, and three blocks.
The return of Howard
In Howard's post-game interview, he continuously preached to Orlando fans about moving forward.
"This is fun," Howard said. "I came back home. This is the first time I have been back here since April. I was looking forward to being back here. Thank God it is over with. Like I said, I think this is something that I needed was to come back here and I think the city needed. It is closure. Now we can all move on."
"I had eight great years here and people are going to feel the way they feel and I totally understand that." He said. "All that stuff doesn't phase me. I will always have love for the city. My house will always still be here in Lake Mary. That is not going anywhere. I play basketball in L.A. and we are going to try for this championship."
He even went on to say that the City Beautiful will forever remain in his heart.
Intentionally fouling Howard backfires
"I think early on it was a strategy that worked for us," Vaughn said. "I don't know what he started off early. I think he only made two early. We needed to use it throughout the course of the game. If we would've made six more threes, I probably wouldn't have done it, but strategy-wise, I needed to give our guys rest. I played a few guys a lot of minutes and to see if he could make them and used the percentages and he stepped up and made them."
Afflalo discusses the Amway atmosphere
There were a few other things that stuck out on Tuesday: the atmosphere was somewhat divided. In fact, there were a lot of Lakers fans at the game. The number of boos Howard received was greater than the cheers Magic fans had for their team. But the noise died down as Orlando's deficit grew Overall, the crowd was still pretty animated.
Magic guard Arron Afflalo, on the other hand, thought the vibe at the Amway Center was "pretty cool" at the beginning of the game, but then said the crowd would have been more tuned in had the game been more competitive.
"[There was] a lot of anticipation," Afflalo said. "As the game wore on it seemed like another game. Maybe if it was a little more competitive in the fourth quarter we probably would have seen the crowd a little more engaged. But the game wasn't really that close for the crowd to be as engaged as you would expect in this environment."
Watch Afflalo's locker-room interview
For now, the headache is over. Take an Excedrin or two along with a dose of patience, because the Magic will one day come back to relevancy and be more capable of challenging the league's marquee teams.