Sunday night's 113-103 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center was satisfying for the Orlando Magic not only because it ended their three-game losing streak and started their five-game road trip on a positive note, but because they beat their former All-Star center Dwight Howard, who played against the Magic for the first time since being traded to the Lakers during the offseason.
After the game, several Magic players discussed the win, including point guard Jameer Nelson, who had the opportunity to leave Orlando as a free agent this past summer, but instead opted to sign a multi-year extension with the team he has played his entire career for.
"I definitely want to be in Orlando. I could have gone somewhere else, but this organization has been so, so true to me," Nelson said. "The one thing I wanted to continue to do was be in a Magic uniform because the fans and the (Rich) DeVos family. I love what they are about; they are about what I stand for. They’ve helped me a lot over the last nine years."
While it was glossed over by Howard, his former teammates, and everyone else involved, the fact that he was facing Orlando was clearly on the minds of every member of both organizations. Still, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn focused on the play of his team rather than a player who was traded less than two weeks after he took over for former coach Stan Van Gundy in July.
"The first thing I mentioned after the game was that we played for each other and with each other," Vaughn said. "That was great from the beginning to the end. The 34 assists shows our unselfishness and our ability to play like that every night. It’s just about having a commitment and a focus and tonight we had it."
The fact remains that Sunday night's win was the best win of Vaughn's short tenure with the Magic and the franchise's biggest victory sans Howard. No matter what anyone says, it obviously meant just a little bit more than your ordinary game.
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