As expected, Dwight Howard hears plenty of boos upon return to Orlando


It was what everyone expected, what Dwight Howard had to expect going when he  returned to the Amway Center Tuesday — Magic fans are still angry about how he forced his way out of town, they felt jilted and they looked at Tuesday as their cathartic outlet.

Those fans didn’t miss an opportunity. And this was not a mix of cheers and boos — it was all boos.

Some fans showed up wearing altered Howard jerseys — “Xs” taped over his number, one fan had the “H” in Howard converted to a “C.”

Howard was booed when he led the Lakers out for warm-ups. He was booed every time he touched the ball during lay-up lines (and Howard put on a dunking exhibition rather than lying low in the lines).

Howard even played along and playfully booed the fans back.

One guy interrupted the National Anthem to yell, “Dwight, you suck!” (Via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.)

Howard was booed during the introductions (as you can see in the video above).

The boos got louder every time he touched the ball in the first quarter, but Howard played through it pretty well with six quick points on 3-of-4 shooting. He had a big block of Tobias Harris — they guy now wearing No. 12 in Orlando.

“Big Baby” Glen Davis was chirping from the Magic bench at Howard and the two of them had a running dialogue that we can’t reprint here.

By the end Howard had owned the game — he had 39 points and been sent to the line 39 times (tying an NBA record), but he hit 25 of those free throws and that propelled the Lakers win, 106-97.

Howard all day talked about trying to move on, saying that he loved Orlando and the fans but what happened in the past was in the past. He echoed that after the game. Of course, it was easier for him to say that with the Lakers having won and played well enough lately to put themselves back playoff chase.

Magic fans had not moved on yet and this was their chance to vent. They wanted to make sure he knew how they felt.

He did. Earlier in the day Howard talked about wanting to go out to dinner in Orlando but deciding to stay in and eat at his home in the area with his family. He knew the reaction in public.

Maybe that will die down in the coming years. But not on Tuesday night.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell with shot of night to force OT with Spurs

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One of the factors to consider in the Rookie of the Year race: clutch plays.

Down three with less than 10 seconds to go Friday night, the Utah Jazz put the ball in the hands of their rookie playmaker Donovan Mitchell — and he made the play, draining a three to force overtime. It’s an impressive play.

In the clutch this season (last five minutes of a game, within five points), Mitchell has averaged 3.2 shots per contest (by far the most of any rookie) and has a true shooting percentage of 51 percent. Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, the other front-runner in the ROY race, averages less than a shot per game in those clutch situations (0.8) and has a true shooting percentage of 66.7 percent.

Mitchell made the big shot, but the Spurs made plenty too, had 45 points on the night from LaMarcus Aldridge, and got the win.


PBT Extra: Who is coming out of the Eastern Conference?

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The Toronto Raptors will finish with the No. 1 seed and all the best metrics in the East, but they have a history of playoff flameouts. The Boston Celtics’ have been hit hard by injuries. And the Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James but also a dreadful defense, this is the most vulnerable a LeBron led team has been since he bolted Cleveland seven years ago.

So what team is coming out of the East?

We get into that in this latest PBT Extra. A poll on Twitter found most of you think the Cavaliers, but personally, I think the Raptors — who have been better defensively all season than the Cavs — may finally have their year.

LaMarcus Aldridge drops career-high 45 points, Spurs beat Jazz in OT

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge had a career-high 45 points, helping San Antonio overcome Donovan Mitchell‘s 35-point performance for Utah in the Spurs’ 124-120 overtime victory over the Jazz on Friday night.

The Spurs won their sixth straight and beat the Jazz for the first time in four meetings this season.

Utah’s 12-game road winning streak came to an end, but only after Mitchell had 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three 3-pointers in the final two minutes to force overtime.

San Antonio remained sixth in the Western Conference with the same record as fifth-place New Orleans, a half-game behind Oklahoma City for fourth. Utah remained eighth in the West.

After free throws by Spurs guards Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills and a dunk by Jazz center Rudy Gobert put San Antonio up 114-111, Mitchell drained his third 3-pointer of the fourth with 3.6 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Mills, who finished with 23 points, had six points in overtime as the Spurs capped an undefeated six-game homestand.

Aldridge averaged 32.2 points and 9.0 rebounds during the winning streak, including two double-doubles.

Aldridge scored 28 points in the first half on 12-for-16 shooting, including a 3-pointer.

Utah missed its first six shots and was 4 for 14 as San Antonio grabbed a 19-8 lead midway through the first quarter. Mitchell settled the Jazz, scoring six points to cut the Spurs lead to 29-21 heading into the second quarter.

Mitchell was 14-for-35 shooting while falling six points shy of his season-high.

Derrick Favors added 22 points for Utah and Ricky Rubio had 20.

Ginobili finished with 18 points for the Spurs.


Stephen Curry leaves game with knee injury


In his first night back from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six games, Stephen Curry limped off the court not to return after in third quarter Friday night after JaVale McGee fell into his knee.

He limped to the bench then eventually to the locker room after the injury.

The severity of the injury is not yet known and should become clear on Saturday after an MRI.

Curry scored 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before being forced to leave the game, and the Warriors held on to win the game.

Obviously, if Curry is out heading into the playoffs, that changes the dynamic in the West, where the Houston Rockets were already right on the heels of the Warriors.