Dwight Howard made history at Oracle Arena and gave Warriors fans even more reason to fantastically long for him on their squad.
Howard totaled 45 points, 23 rebounds and an NBA record 39 free-throw attempts Thursday night, leading the Magic to a 117-109 win over the Warriors (3-7). Monta Ellis' 30 points and 11 assists, and David Lee's 26 points and 12 rebounds, weren't enough to overcome the monster performance from the best center in the game.
Warriors coach Mark Jackson -- without his best defensive big man in Kwame Brown, who is out with a chest muscle injury -- tried to slow Howard by putting him at the free-throw line. A lot.
"We have two bodies that can defend him one-on-one and force him away from the painted area," Jackson explained. "That's (Andris Biedrins) and Kwame Brown. ... Immediately, you have to figure out a way to stop a great player. And his weakness is foul shooting."
Howard, who came in shooting a career-low 42.6 percent from the line, was 21 for 39 from the free-throw line. The previous record for free throw attempts in a game was 34, set by the Philadelphia Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain Feb. 22, 1962, against the St. Louis Hawks.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, Howard got a rhythm going after missing 14 of his first 24 free throws. He made nine straight at one point in the second half. Eventually, Golden State had to stop the Hack-a-Howard and he began to dominate the interior. He scored 16 points in the
The game was tied at 109 with just over a minute left, and the Warriors' needed a stop. But Howard corralled Hedo Turkoglu's missed 3-pointer and, with Lee hanging on, dropped in the bank shot with ease. Howard then nailed the free throw to complete the three-point play, taking the air out of the Warriors' sails.
"It's a chance you take," Lee said. "It fouled out Andris (Biedrins) and Ekpe (Udoh), and myself at the end. ... Dwight had a good game to his credit and in the second half hit his free throws. We took a chance. Coach had the idea to do that, and we stand behind our coach."
It couldn't have come at a better time for the injury-riddled Warriors. Thursday marked the Warriors' fourth straight game without starting point guard Stephen Curry. Golden State was also without starting small forward Dorell Wright, who missed his first game as a Warrior because of a left knee contusion.
Golden State got starting center Biedrins back in the lineup, but in the same day learned backup center and defensive specialist Brown was out for an extended period with a torn chest muscle.
"It took him a while to recover from the illness in Phoenix," general manager Larry Riley said of Lee, who missed a game against the Suns with flu-like symptoms. "But now that he has his legs back he has been a key factor with his rebounding, ball movement and scoring."
He played easily his best game of the season against Miami on Tuesday. It wasn't just the 20 points and 14 rebounds. It was his activity on defense (season-high four steals). Thursday against Orlando, Lee continued his effectiveness. He was Golden State's best player in the first half, which saw the Warriors lead by as much as 13.
He said he took the blow to the side of the knee, where it wasn't padded, and felt it swelling up during the game. By Wednesday morning, his knee had ballooned. He's since had it drained and it will be examined before the flight to Charlotte.
But Wright said he doesn't expect to be out long. And when he returns, he expects to still be in a groove.
"I'll be fine," Wright said. "I know what I was doing wrong. I wasn't taking enough shots and I fixed some mechanical things."
He entered Thursday's game second on Orlando in scoring (17.8) and rebounding (7.5). Both are on pace for career-highs, as is his 30.2 minutes per game.
"It's definitely having more experience," Anderson said of his surge in production this season. "Just being able to play consistent minutes is something that I think can make any player better."
Anderson -- who is 6-foot-10, 240 pounds -- is now a full-time starter. On the defensive end, he's able help Howard on the boards.
On offense, he spreads the floor with his shooting, knocking down 41.2 percent from 3-point range this season.