Magic cruise as Lewis fuels 3-point barrageNov 1, 2007 - 4:08 AM By Jim Rickenbacker PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- With the money it took to sign him, Rashard Lewis will be expected to perform like a superstar. If his debut was any indication, he may be on his way.
Lewis scored 26 points and sparked a huge third quarter for the Orlando Magic on Wednesday as they routed the Milwaukee Bucks, 102-83, in the season opener for both teams.
In the offseason, Lewis was acquired by Orlando in a sign-and trade deal after spending his first nine seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics.
However, it was the size of the contract - a franchise-record six-year, $118 million offer, the fourth-richest deal in NBA history - that raised eyebrows around the league.
Clinging to a 57-56 lead, Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu hit three consecutive 3-pointers and Keith Bogans added a fourth to stake Orlando to a 69-58 lead.
"Coach (Stan Van Gundy) got on us at halftime," said Lewis, whose only significant minutes of the preseason came on Thursday against San Antonio. "Coach said we were playing soft, that they were killing us on the glass. We got a couple of stops and ran out and got some easy baskets that separated us."
Lewis connected on two more 3-pointers in the period, the last coming with 1:51 remaining that left Milwaukee trailing, 77-60. His last shot from the arc in the period was the team's sixth straight in a span of 5:01.
"Yeah, my shot felt good, but it felt good to sit down early because we've got a lot of games in the first month," Lewis said.
By the time point guard Jameer Nelson finished off a three-point play with 30.5 seconds showing, the lead was 83-60 and Orlando was off to its eighth Opening Night win in the past 10 years.
"Things like he (Rashard) did tonight will only make things better for everyone," Howard said. "I'm in the post and everybody's making shots, so it's a chance to go 1-on-1. Then, when I get going 1-on-1, it opens things up and we get the shots we did tonight. And I didn't have to score to be dominant. I can play great defense, rebound and be a beast in the middle. That's how you dominate."
In all, the Magic outscored the Bucks 35-16 in the third quarter.
Turkoglu added 24 points while Dwight Howard had 16 and 12 rebounds to go along with a career-high-tying seven blocks for the Magic, who finished the contest with 12 shots from the arc - the most Orlando has recorded in 144 games.
"Obviously, that game was all about the third quarter," Van Gundy said. "I thought we were outstanding. The three guys we rely on (Howard, Lewis and Turkoglu) were all fabulous.
"I thought Turk and Rashard were obviously great at the offensive end, and Dwight was dominant. Dwight struggled a little bit offensively, but to not even play the fourth period and wind up with 12 rebounds and seven blocks is unbelievable."
Not even All-Star guard Michael Redd's offense could rescue Milwaukee following the Magic's long-distance display. He scored 25 points before heading to the bench early in the final quarter.
"The third quarter just murdered us," Redd said. "We stopped executing and they got hot. We didn't defend the 3-point line, and they made us pay for it."
Rookie Yi Jianlian collected nine points and four rebounds in his debut before fouling out with 2:54 remaining for Milwaukee.
Lewis scored 10 of his 17 first-half points in the opening period. Turkoglu, meanwhile, matched Lewis' seven second-period points and helped launch a 12-1 run that erased a 41-34 deficit.
"We were going to Rashard early and then quit going to him and ran a lot of pick-and-rolls with Turk (Turkoglu) and Dwight," Van Gundy said. "Rashard can hurt you in a lot of ways. He's a great complimentary guy to Dwight and when you want to go to Dwight, you can also go to him. He's a very versatile guy."
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