ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Dwight Howard had a crisp blue-and-white bow tie and a white sweater over his shirt in the locker room, the same outfit he planned to wear in New York a night earlier. Except that game was canceled.
So he brought everything out of the closet for this one.
Howard had 18 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots to help the Orlando Magic set a team record for most points in the first half and hand the Minnesota Timberwolves their worst loss in franchise history, 128-86 on Wednesday night.
“I thought with two of your last four games having been called off, I thought it was a victory just that this one started,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, chuckling.
If only the Timberwolves were so lucky.
Vince Carter had 20 points, Ryan Anderson scored 19 and the Magic shook up the starting lineup to score 78 points in the opening half for an easy win. Orlando started Anderson at power forward, moved Rashard Lewis to small forward and bumped Quentin Richardson out of the starting lineup.
The new-look lineup worked just fine.
Kevin Love had 22 points and Corey Brewer scored 12 for the Timberwolves, who lost on consecutive nights in Florida by 74 points. Minnesota fell by 32 a night earlier in Miami and has lost four of its first five games.
It was the largest margin of defeat in Timberwolves history. The previous was 41 points against Miami on March 5, 1996.
“These are hard lessons for a young team to learn,” Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said. “They didn’t play well offensively and do the right things, and we clearly didn’t do the right things defensively either.”
The Timberwolves also had to contend with a Magic team that been simmering for five days since the Heat blew them away.
The layoff was prolonged because Orlando’s game Tuesday night against the Knicks was postponed due to safety concerns at Madison Square Garden, where debris fell into the arena during overnight cleaning of asbestos-related materials. Orlando also had a preseason game against Miami in Tampa canceled after an oily cleaning substance made the court too slick.
The well-rested Magic finally got a chance to let out their frustrations.
With Howard doing his work on the inside, that freed up Orlando’s shooters to hit 3-pointers at will. Anderson alone made three straight 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, Carter had three 3s and J.J. Redick and Chris Duhon combined to hit three more to give the Magic a 78-45 lead.
And that was just the first half.
The outpouring was the most points in a first half in franchise history, breaking the previous mark of 75 against Sacramento on Jan. 13, 2009. That was the same night Orlando set an NBA record with 23 made 3-pointers. The Magic finished with 15 made 3-pointers against Minnesota.
It was a strong showing, albeit against one of the NBA’s worst teams, for Van Gundy’s lineup swap. For the first time in years in a regular-season game, Orlando started Lewis down at small forward and moved Anderson into the lineup at power forward.
“It was great to score like 80 points in a half but that’s not really realistic on a game-to-game basis,” Anderson said. “But of course it’s fun moving the ball like that.”
Of course, the Timberwolves didn’t put up near the fight as LeBron James and the rival Miami Heat, who routed Orlando 96-70 in the Magic’s last game Friday night. Minnesota was already playing short-handed with Michael Beasley nursing a sore left hip after he took a hard fall at Miami on Tuesday night.
The lengthy lineup exposed the Timberwolves’ lack of depth, size and overall talent against one of the Eastern Conference’s elite. The play was often embarrassing at times for Minnesota, too.
On one play in the third quarter, Love and Brewer inadvertently tipped a rebound in for a Magic basket. Wayne Ellington dribbled the ball off his leg earlier in the game for a backcourt violation, and Howard swatted Minnesota shots into the stands more than once.
“They told me to grab them, but I just think sometimes blocking a shot, sending it out of bounds, shows a team that it’s not going to be easy coming into the paint,” Howard said. “Grabbing it, that’s like being a show off, even though it is kind of cool.”
NOTES: Howard was called for his second technical foul this season. He threw his arms in the air, then clapped his hands forcefully protesting his second foul in the first two minutes. Howard also had a technical foul against Miami. … Love had a technical foul in the second half for arguing.