Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Dwight Howard scored 21 points with 14 rebounds, as Orlando finally put the ball in the basket and watched Kobe Bryant miss several shots and commit a key turnover down the stretch, as the Magic beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 108-104, to take Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
"My teammates found me in good spots to score," said Howard. "I tried to do the best I could."
Rafer Alston scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half, Rashard Lewis donated 21 points and Hedo Turkoglu recorded 18 points with seven assists and six rebounds. The Magic shot an NBA Finals record 75 percent in the first half, and ended up making a Finals record 62.5 percent of their shots for the entire 48 minutes.
"It went in the basket tonight. It is a trite and true formula. I say this all the time, this is a crazy game," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.
Bryant scored 17 points in the final five-plus minutes of the first quarter then went hot and cold for the rest of the contest, finishing with 31 points and eight assists. Pau Gasol added 23 points and Trevor Ariza contributed 13 points and seven rebounds.
"It is a series of adjustments," said Bryant. "We had an opportunity to win the game in spite of our miscues."
The Lakers now lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Thursday night at Amway Arena in Orlando.
The lead moved back to eight several times in the early stages of the fourth stanza and even reached nine on Howard's baby hook for a 91-82 game. Mickael Pietrus' layup kept the comfortable working margin at 93-85, but the pesky Lakers notched the next five capped by Gasol's southpaw hook from the low left box.
Derek Fisher's three drew the Lakers within 95-93, and made the visitors 7- for-7 from the field in the quarter's first six-plus minutes. The Lakers finally missed a shot on Ariza's failed dunk attempt, but the nerves crept into Orlando's offensive flow, resulting in successive turnovers and a missed runner by Alston.
With the game tied, Pietrus' follow-up slam gave the Magic a 101-99 lead, then Bryant's contested three rolled off the front rim on the other end. Alston was fouled and made 1-of-2 with 1:52 on the clock, then Gasol answered with a short bank shot, making the Lakers 10-of-13 from the field in the period.
Lewis stopped up at the top of the circle and netted a long two-point shot off an Alston pass for a 104-101 edge with 1:06 to go.
Bryant made 1-of-2 foul shots with 59.8 ticks to go, making the score 104-102. Lewis was blocked on the other end, and the ball went out of bounds off the Magic. Bryant then uncharacteristically turned it over and Pietrus calmly sank both free throws after a loose ball foul for a 106-102 edge with 28.7 seconds left.
Pietrus scored 18 points off the bench on 7-of-11 shooting.
Orlando held on from there, as Bryant missed two more long attempts in the closing seconds.
"We are all frail as humans. Sometimes not as much as others," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said about Bryant's failure to pull the club to the finish line down the stretch.
Bryant didn't attempt a field goal until the second half of the first quarter, then went on a scoring exhibition the remainder of the half. He played the part of conductor in the early going, driving the efficient offense through multiple shooters, including Ariza, who drained two quick mid-range jumpers. Then, the star guard became unconscious from the floor, scoring 17 points in the quarter's final 5:41.
He connected on step-back jumpers, shots off the pass and the dribble. He scored at will in the lane, making two layups in traffic over a one-minute span, with the second giving the Lakers a 23-21 edge. His three-pointer and subsequent free throw with 30 ticks on the clock gave Los Angeles its first- quarter margin, 31-27.
The edge reached five on multiple occasions in the second stanza, the last at 38-33 on a Jordan Farmar jumper. Orlando held its own and eventually took the lead back at 51-50 on Pietrus' three, then Lewis' triple with just over two minutes left pushed the advantage to 54-52. The Magic lead 59-54 at the half.
An evenly-played third quarter featured a tepid shooting Magic offense, at least compared to the record-setting first 24 minutes, but the lead did reach eight points at 77-69 on a three-pointer by Lewis. Bryant's triple capped six quick points, but Howard tallied the quarter's final four points for a 81-75 margin.
Game Notes: The Lakers shot 51.3 percent from the floor...Lamar Odom scored a quiet 11 points for the Lakers, while Farmar also tallied 11...Jameer Nelson, back from the shoulder surgery that was well documented prior to the series' outset, scored just two points in just over 11 minutes of action...The Lakers made only 16-of-26 from the charity stripe...The Magic won their first NBA Finals game in their seventh try.