Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Magic falls in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — During their first preseason game, the Magic realized it had serious fans in places it didn't expect them.

Mexican fans streamed into the Ciudad de Mexico Arena on Sunday more than an hour before tipoff to see warmups, with many wearing Magic jerseys. One was wearing J.J. Redick's Duke jersey, another Glen Davis' Celtics jersey.

"I'm a super fan. This is so cool that they're here," said Jose Manuel Gomez, 20, after getting Redick's autograph.

Most important, the player they raised had come home to play in front of a true home crowd.

Magic forward Gustavo Ayon's uncle, Fernando Ayon, and countless other relatives traveled eight hours from Nayarit state to see the Mexican-born forward play.

"What can I say? I can barely speak," Fernando said.

When that moment finally arrived and Gustavo Ayon was introduced as the Magic's starting forward against the Hornets, the roof almost came down. His stern look faded, and he flashed an enormous smile.

It didn't take long for Ayon, 27, to give the crowd something to cheer. He scored the first two points of the game, connecting on a layup in transition from Jameer Nelson's bounce pass.

Though the Magic enjoyed strong fan support, the Hornets used a fourth-quarter rally to win 85-80. The Hornets outscored Orlando 31-14 in the fourth.

E'Twaun Moore, who is fighting for Orlando's backup point guard job, scored a team-high 16 to go along with seven assists and three turnovers.

As expected, veteran starters Redick, Davis, Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu played sparingly — no more than 21 minutes for any of them — and they helped stake the Magic to a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter.

More preseason action: The Heat opened with a 92-79 loss to the host Hawks, who were led by Josh Smith's 21 points. Chris Bosh finished with 22 points and LeBron James had 10 for the defending champions, who played without guard Dwyane Wade, recovering from knee surgery. Ray Allen, making his Miami debut, had 10 points and five assists in 27 minutes. … Rajon Rondo scored all 17 of his points in the first quarter and added six assists to lead the Celtics to a 105-75 win over Emporio Armani Milano of the Euroleague in Milan, Italy.

Jackson on Howard-Shaq spat: Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson didn't exactly pick sides in the dustup between centers Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard, but he said "there is a lot to what (O'Neal) says" when he characterized Howard as a "pick-and-roll" player with a more limited offensive game than more traditional back-to-the-basket centers Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez.

"Brook and Andrew are guys who have good touches. They're good scoring players, and they have good offensive games," Jackson said on a Chicago radio show.

Jackson described Howard as a better all-around player and complemented him on the improvements he has made to his offensive game in recent years. But Howard is still "learning the post game," he said.

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