Magic makes a stand against Lakers


Matt Barnes was not going to back down from Kobe Bryant or Derek Fisher or any other Laker.

Dwight Howard was going to be the aggressor, the attacker, the one to go at the Lakers. Vince Carter was going to be an offensive force even it was against defensive ace Ron Artest.

The Orlando Magic felt if it had to make a stand against the Lakers, even if it meant getting technical fouls, setting hard screens, committing hard fouls or talking trash.

Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy summed up his team’s 96-94 victory over the Lakers Sunday at Amway Arena the best.

“I thought we battled them toe to toe,” he said.

From the Magic perspective, the Lakers would push and shove, but Orlando refused to back down.

If it meant that Barnes got a technical along with Bryant when the two became entangled early in the third period and began to talk trash, so be it, the Magic said.

If it meant Howard’s throwing an elbow at Pau Gasol that was an unwise foul just to make sure the Magic center held his turf, so be it, the Magic said.

“We won’t back down from anybody, no matter how physical it gets out there,” Howard said after scoring 15 points and collecting 16 rebounds. “It could be the best team in the league, the best player, whoever it may be. We’re going to keep going at you. Sometimes you can’t worry about fouls or technicals. You just got to play and know that it’s going to be a physical game.”

The Magic lost to the Lakers in five games in the NBA Finals last June and wanted a measure of revenge, a measure of respect.

In Orlando’s mind, it happened when Carter scored 25 points, when Jameer Nelson was a problem the Lakers couldn’t handle with his 15 points, seven assists, nine rebounds and ability to penetrate and when the Magic held the Lakers to 37.5% shooting.

Barnes was in the middle of it all, still talking trash to Bryant after both were given technicals with 11:26 left in the third.

After one follow-up dunk, Barnes seemed to make sure he landed in Bryant’s face so they could be nose to nose.

Once when Barnes was taking the ball out of bounds, he showed it to Bryant.

“I respect Kobe with the utmost respect,” Barnes said. “He’s the best player in the league, but when they start throwing elbows.… If we can go both ways, that’s fine.

“I got hit with two elbows and one time they called a double-tech and then one time they just called a double-foul. He’s [Bryant] the man, but you got to clean it up or something is going to happen.”

Barnes had defended Bryant all game, had watched him score 34 points and now was left alone on the Lakers’ guard with Orlando holding a 96-94 lead with 9.7 seconds left.

Bryant pulled up for a 20-foot jumper for the tie that missed as time expired.

Barnes raised his hands.

“I knew he wasn’t going to pass it, so I just really tried to square him up,” Barnes said. “There really wasn’t enough time for him to get me up in the air on a pump fake. I knew once he made a move he was going to have to shoot it so I just tried to jump with him and hope he missed it.

“He was talking the whole time, ‘You better double me.’ That’s what he does. He’s the best so he’s got to think that way.”