LOS ANGELES – Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis scored 21 points each as the Orlando Magic beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104 in Game 3 of the NBA finals on Tuesday to pull within 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Orlando shot a finals record 63 percent — including another finals record 75 percent in the first half — to snap a six-game finals losing streak and avoid falling into an 0-3 hole that no team in postseason history has been able to escape.
Kobe Bryant, seeking a fourth title and his first since 2002, scored 31 points for the Lakers but the superstar had just 10 points in the second half and went only 4 of 15 from the field after the first quarter. He also missed five free throws, points that could have given the Lakers that 3-0 lead.
Game 4 is Thursday night, and Game 5 — now necessary — will be at Amway Arena on Sunday.
With their season 48 minutes from all but disappearing, the Magic, hosting their first finals game since 1995, had five players score at least 18 points. Rafer Alston, who made just three of 17 shots from the field in the first two games, had 20 and Hedo Turkoglu and Mickael Pietrus 18 each.
"We've got to play like this," Howard said of the balanced scoring. "When guys are attacking we're tough to guard.
"We moved the ball a lot tonight," he said. "We got some good shots. We didn't rush anything."
Pau Gasol scored 23 points but had just three rebounds and the Lakers were only 16 of 26 from the line.
For a while, it appeared the Magic, who shot just 36 percent while dropping Games 1 and 2 at Staples Center, couldn't or wouldn't miss.
From 20 feet, swish. From 10 feet, nothing but net. Layups, runners, banks, pull-ups, didn't matter. You name it, if it went up, more times than not it went in.
"Well, it was going in the basket. That always works," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That formula's always tried and true."
Orlando made 24 of 32 shots in the first half and only cooled off a little in the third quarter as they entered the fourth at a 65 percent clip and clinging to an 81-75 lead.
Bryant sat out the first 4:47 of the fourth, and when he finally subbed in, the Lakers were still down by five and unable to do anything to stop the Magic's marksmanship.
But then, Orlando began to misfire at the worst time possible.
After Pietrus was long with a wide-open 3 pointer, Gasol was fouled at the other end and made two free throws to make it 99 all with 2:41 remaining. Orlando's rowdy crowd, which waited 14 years for a chance to welcome the Larry O'Brien Trophy to town, grew nervous.
"Oh, boy," muttered one fan near the media section.