Howard's reunion with Magic does not go too well

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Howard's reunion with Magic does not go too well

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dwight Howard wasn't his usually playful self in the Los Angeles Lakers' locker room. He refused to answer certain questions and shared few personal thoughts about his ugly reunion with the Orlando Magic."It wasn't emotional," Howard said.Maybe that was part of the problem -- and one reason the Magic left the reunion with their biggest win of the season.Arron Afflalo scored 30 points, Glen Davis added 23 points and 12 rebounds, and the Magic beat Howard's Lakers in their first game against their longtime center, 113-103 on Sunday night.Howard had 21 points and 15 rebounds against his former team, but the rebuilding Magic rallied impressively with a 40-point fourth quarter for just their fourth win in 14 games, snapping a three-game skid. Orlando pulled the upset partly by intentionally fouling Howard, who went 9 for 21 at the line -- including 7 for 14 in the fourth quarter.The Magic made their decisive 12-2 run while Howard wasn't helping the Lakers at the line in the final minutes, with Nelson and J.J. Redick hitting 3-pointers along the way.Howard's first few months with the Lakers haven't gone the way he might have expected after the four-team, 12-player trade in August: a sub-.500 record, a shocking coaching change, an injured point guard and an unsightly amplification of Howard's career-long woes at the free-throw line, where he has dropped to 46.5 percent (87 for 187) for the season."As a team, our effort wasn't there," Howard said. "We have to start the game with energy and play the whole game the same way. We didn't do that tonight, and they capitalized on it and they got a win."Howard left the court after the game without shaking hands with the Magic -- not that he has many close friends left in blue pinstripes anyway. Orlando has new coach Jacque Vaughn, a new front-office staff and just five players who played with Howard."Let Dwight be Dwight. If he wants to walk off the court, it's cool," said Davis, who overlapped with Howard only last season in Orlando. "No hard feelings. He lost. I'd feel bad, too. I wouldn't want to shake nobody's hand. We weren't even really thinking about him. We just wanted to get this win. I didn't talk to him. I'm here to play basketball. I'm not here to be buddies."Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 3-4 under new coach Mike D'Antoni with another inconsistent performance featuring deficient defense. Metta World Peace scored 15 points and Pau Gasol added 11 for the Lakers, who went back to poor form just two nights after a 122-point effort in a blowout win over Denver."Seems like we can't get out of our own way," D'Antoni said. "I think our problem is just not coming out with the intensity and the purpose that we need to have. ... We're slow right now. Just athletically, we're struggling with young teams that run up and down."Jameer Nelson had 19 points and 13 assists after nearly sitting out with tendinitis during the Magic's most impressive win under Vaughn. Orlando also started a stretch of five road games in eight days with just its second road win all season.Afflalo, the former UCLA star who moved from Denver to Orlando in the trade that sent Howard to the Lakers, had his highest-scoring game in a Magic uniform."The way we lost the past three games, I'm sure our fans just wanted to see us win in general," Afflalo said. "But for us to kick-start this road trip by playing well, against the Lakers in particular, they should be proud of that. It's a huge confidence boost for us."Vaughn said before the game that the Magic wouldn't hesitate to force Howard to beat them at the free-throw line in a close game. Howard missed seven of his first nine free throws against the Magic before finishing with more free-throw attempts than the entire Orlando roster, which went 19 for 20."That kind of got us out of our rhythm a little bit," said Antawn Jamison, who scored 10 points for Los Angeles. "But it's unexplainable ... to play the way we did tonight after playing so well the other night."Howard spent the past eight years as the face of the Orlando franchise since the Magic plucked him out of his Atlanta high school with the first pick in the 2004 draft. He made six All-Star teams and won the NBA's defensive player of the year award three times, leading the Magic to the 2009 NBA finals during five straight playoff appearances.It all fell apart over the previous two seasons when Howard criticized the organization, flirted with numerous trades and eventually bumped heads with coach Stan Van Gundy. Howard missed the end of last season with a herniated disc in his back, and the Magic missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006.NOTES:The Lakers don't visit Orlando until March 12. ... World Peace hit the 1,000th 3-pointer of his career in the third quarter. ... Lakers G Steve Nash did shooting and dribbling work on the court before the game. The two-time MVP has missed 15 straight games with a small fracture in his right leg, and the Lakers aren't sure when he'll return.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.