The Orlando Magic have stormed back into contention in the NBA Finals with a triumphant win over the Los Angeles Lakers 108-104 in Florida, narrowing the deficit in their best-of-seven series to 2-1.
|Dwight Howard takes a shot for Orlando [GALLO/GETTY]
Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis conjured up 21 points each to lead the Magic, who also set a record in the championship round by connecting on nearly 63 percent of their shots.
The Magic squandered a nine-point lead midway through the fourth quarter but held on for their first victory of an NBA Finals series.
"Tonight we played more speed, more energy on the offensive end," said Magic point guard Rafer Alston, who scored 20 points.
"We were able to get down the floor, push it, a lot of pick and roll, which is our game.
"The bad thing is we shot 62 and a half percent and almost lost the game, so we've got to find a way to defend these guys."
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was delighted:
"I've said it throughout the season and throughout these playoffs, the one thing that you can't question with our team is their resilience in situations like that, whether it's from game to game, minute to minute, our team will keep playing."
Two foul shots by Lakers forward Pau Gasol with 2:41 left tied the score at 99-99 but a jam by Mickael Pietrus and a foul shot by Alston gave the Magic a 102-99 lead.
With the Lakers trailing 104-102 Kobe Bryant committed a costly turnover and then fouled Pietrus, who sank two free throws with 28.7 left to clinch the Magic victory.
"It was disappointing," said Bryant, last year's Most Valuable Player who is looking for his fourth championship ring.
"I'm used to coming through in those situations, the team trusts me to come through in those situations, and it just didn't happen tonight."
Bryant played his worst game of the series, hitting only 11 of 25 shots while misfiring on half of his 10 free throw attempts.
He also committed an uncharacteristic four turnovers.
Kobe shut down
|Kobe Bryant is blocked by Dwight Howard [GALLO/GETTY]
The 30-year-old, 11-times All Star scored 31 points but was shut down for much of the final three quarters after torching the Magic for 17 points in the opening period.
"They really started coming hard to him," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
"Howard was consistently coming at him on shots, making it difficult. He never really got in rhythm again the same way."
Jackson said Bryant's poor foul shooting played a huge part in the loss.
"Those are the kinds of things that change a game," he said.
"This is a very unusual thing, Kobe shooting five for 10 after hitting 14 in a row at the end of the game the other night. That's a difference maker."
Game Four of the series is on Thursday in Orlando.
The Magic will have to fight formidable odds since only three teams have recovered from a 0-2 deficit to win the finals.
"We didn't allow us being down 0-2 to discourage us from winning," said Howard, who hit five of six shots and had a team-leading 14 rebounds.
"We've come a long way and our goal is to win the championship.
"We're going to continue to fight.
"All I told my team mates is, 'You've got to continue to believe'. We've had two tough losses, but things will turn around for us if we continue to believe."