Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy made Wednesday’s 109-92 Magic rout of the Thunder worth the price of admission.
With Thunder guard Kevin Durant not in the lineup because of an ankle injury, and the Thunder trailing by as many as 32, fans could turn their attention to Orlando center Dwight Howard.
And it was Van Gundy who ignored his team’s 29-point halftime advantage and insisted on playing his All-Star center his customary 37 minutes. The decision gave Oklahoma City an extended glimpse of the player many consider the league’s best center in his only visit to the Ford Center this season.
Howard scored 30 points with 19 rebounds and 10 blocks, the first triple-double of his five-year career, finishing one rebound shy of becoming the first player since Hakeem Olajuwon in 1989 to post a 30, 20 and 10 game.
As it stands, Howard became the first player since Marcus Camby in 2007 to record a triple-double with 10 blocks.
"I wish he would have had one more rebound,” Van Gundy said. "It would have looked real even on the stat sheet. You can’t dominate a game much more than that. I thought he was outstanding.”
Thunder coach P.J. Carlesimo, between calling out his team’s lack of effort, labeled the 6-foot-11, 265-pound Howard "one of the best players on the planet.”
Howard lived up to that billing from the opening tip, when Thunder starting center Johan Petro didn’t even contest Howard’s athleticism during the jump ball.
Howard then led the Magic to a 39-19 first-quarter lead after finishing the period with 14 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.