Howard dominates Sonics

  • By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
  • Wednesday, November 28, 2007 11:56pm
  • SportsSports

SEATTLE — Welcome back, Rashard.

But on your next visit, how about leaving your new friend Dwight Howard back in Orlando?

Ex-Sonic Rashard Lewis returned to his former stomping grounds, where he developed into one of the top shooters in the league during his nine-year stint in Seattle.

But the rims at KeyArena probably are still rattling from the treatment they received from the Orlando big man.

The 6-foot-1l, 265-pound center stole the show against the Seattle SuperSonics. With a rare combination of brute strength and athletic grace, Howard ruled the roost against an undersized Seattle frontcourt.

Howard finished with a career-high 39 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots. And in the process he earned his 14th double-double of the season as the Magic held off a late Seattle rally to earn a 110-94 in front of 12,398 at KeyArena on Wednesday.

The win was Orlando’s second over Seattle this season, and eighth in the past 12 games. The Magic (14-3) overwhelmed the Sonics 103-76 in Orlando on Nov. 13.

Lewis, in his first trip back to Seattle since landing in Orlando in a sign-and-trade deal that netted him a six-year, $118-million deal, received a nice round applause from the crowd during player introductions. Lewis didn’t shoot the ball well, finishing 3-of-19 from the field with nine points.

“I was a little hesitant all night,” Lewis said. “I was reminiscing and looking around at everybody and talking. But it was good to get the win, especially coming back here in this building.”

Lewis’ cold shooting didn’t matter as his teammates picked up the slack — specifically Howard, who also finished 15-of-20 from the free-throw line.

“He’s a beast,” said Seattle center Kurt Thomas. “He’s a big boy. And they really pound the ball inside to him. Tonight he shot the ball well, but then he also hit free throws.”

Added Seattle rookie Kevin Durant: “Point blank he’s the most dominant player in the game right now.”

The Sonics dropped to 2-14 on the season, losing six straight after winning their first two games of the year on the road at Miami and Atlanta.

Durant led Seattle with 22 points on 6-of-21 shooting from the field. But Durant was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line as he continues to stay aggressive going to the basket. Wally Szczerbiak had 20 points for Seattle off the bench.

Down 83-68 at the end of the third quarter, Seattle, playing in the second night of a back-to-back, dug deep and managed to whittle Orlando’s lead to a single point, 93-92, on two Szczerbiak free throws with 4:35 left in the contest.

But the Magic finished the game with a 17-2 run, led by a barrage of 3-pointers by Keith Bogans (14 points) and Hedo Turkoglu (15 points) to close out the win.

The Magic dominated this disjointed affair in the first half, leading by as many as 18 as Seattle had no answer for Howard inside. Howard totaled 20 points and nine rebounds in the first half alone.

Seattle’s Earl Watson and Wally Szczerbiak hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut Orlando’s lead to 57-45 at halftime.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well. Orlando finished 36-of-83 from the field (43.4 percent), and Seattle was even worse, shooting 34-of-96 (35.4 percent) from the floor.

Seattle stayed close in the final quarter by clamping down on Howard inside and forcing Orlando to beat them from the perimeter. Seattle finished with 13 offensive rebounds.

The Sonics are still winless at home (0-7) and have four more games at KeyArena before heading out on a five-game road trip in December.

“We’ve been resilient all year,” Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “It doesn’t seem to matter what the score is, our guys keep working and for most of the time they get themselves back in it.”

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