Orlando Magic officials handed Dwight Howard a microphone just before the team tipped off its home opener Monday night against the Houston Rockets at Amway Center.
Howard thanked the announced sellout crowd for their patience during the lockout.
"We're going to have another great season," Howard concluded. "Let's go, baby!"
Over the four quarters that followed, he and his teammates backed up that statement and temporarily erased the cloud created by Howard's request for a trade.
Fueled by Howard and strong fourth quarters from Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick, the Magic celebrated with a 104-95 win over the Houston Rockets. The victory does not mean Orlando's problems on offense are solved. Far from it. But it showed the team is capable of making progress.
"It was huge to get back on a winning streak of, you know, one win," big man Glen Davis said. "We've got a lot to build on from this game. We did some really good things as far as moving the ball. A lot of guys got really comfortable out there."
No one looked more comfortable than Turkoglu, who scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Howard finished with 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
But while Howard helped the Magic early on, Turkoglu provided the finishing touches.
"He has to continue to be aggressive, and that's going to help our team a lot," Howard said. "He understands that. He's just really trying to get into the flow of the game."
The Magic looked far less inept than they did in their season opener one night earlier, a loss in Oklahoma City.
Orlando shot just 37.0 percent from the field Christmas night, but their shooting improved to 53.0 percent Monday.
To be sure, some improvement was expected, even though the Magic were playing the second game of a back-to-back and the Rockets were playing their first game of the season.
Houston finished last season ranked 23rd in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense.
To fortify that defense, the Rockets signed center Samuel Dalembert on Monday, and early foul trouble from starting center Jordan Hill forced Dalembert into the game about two minutes in.
"They have a lot of outside shooters, and you have to stay on them," Dalembert said. "Since I have been playing that team for so long, I kind of know exactly what they do, and I was able to really contribute and help out."
Redick, Davis and Jason Richardson also scored in double figures for Orlando, with Redick scoring eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
"There were times tonight where I thought our movement was good and we got better shots," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"It was still a little sporadic, but it was a big improvement over last night. But there's also a difference in the quality of the defense."
Early in the fourth quarter, a hustle play by Ryan Anderson helped secure the win as Howard sat on the bench getting some rest.
After Davis missed a short jumper, Anderson sprinted in to grab the offensive rebound. Turkoglu received the ball and found Redick for a wide-open 3.
The score put Orlando ahead 84-75 and forced Houston to call a timeout with 8:45 remaining in regulation.
"It was a great overall win," Howard said.
"But it was the second game. We've got to continue to get better, and we will."
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