Vince Carter had 25 points, Howard finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds and the host Magic beat the Lakers, 96-94, yesterday to hand Los Angeles its first three-game losing streak of the Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant Era.
"Alpha dogs usually have the big bark," Howard said afterward. "But since we're so-called puppies, we won't bark as loud."
Carter made his first 13 free throws and kept the Magic in control, showing why Orlando made the move for the eight-time All-Star after losing to the Lakers in last year's Finals.
Throw feisty Matt Barnes into the mix to add some physical presence, and the Magic finally got some reprieve from the sting a Finals failure that has yet to wash away.
"You could see it in everybody's faces and everybody's demeanor," Carter said. "Everybody on that floor wanted to win that game. It wasn't just, 'Yeah, OK, whatever.' It was, 'Let's go get it.' That game was Game 7."
Bryant played through a minor stomach illness to score 34 points, and Gasol had 20 for the Lakers. But they all walked to the locker room distraught and dejected after Bryant missed a 20-footer at the buzzer to seal their latest loss.
"There are some things that, as an experienced team, we should not have happen to us," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Those are the things we try to remedy, but today, we were just a little bit off."
Pistons 110, Rockets 107: Tayshaun Prince scored a season-high 29 points to help host Detroit snap a six-game losing streak. Rodney Stuckey did not play, two days after collapsing on the bench during Detroit's loss in Cleveland.- AP