Courtney Lee's 24 Points Assists Dwight Howard in Magic's Win Over 76ers, 96-87

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IApril 23, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 19: Courtney Lee #11 of the Orlando Magic drives to the basket against the Philadelphis 76ers in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Amway Arena on April 19, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Heading into the NBA Playoffs, everyone knew what Chicago star Derrick Rose might be capable of in his postseason debut. The top pick in last summer’s draft dropped 36 points – the most by a rookie in his first playoff game in league history – leading the Bulls to a Game 1 victory at Boston.

Rose grabbed the early headlines, but a lesser-known first-year player has also stepped up for his team at the beginning of the playoffs.

Orlando’s Courtney Lee scored a career-high 24 points Wednesday night against Philadelphia, leading the Magic to a 96-87 win over the 76ers that tied the teams’ first-round series at 1-1.

Two days after Orlando blew an 18-point lead in Game 1 and lost 100-98 to Philadelphia, Lee helped the Magic again build an 18-point advantage in the second half that the 76ers couldn’t overcome.

Orlando had six players—including all five starters—score in double figures. Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard led the Magic with 10 rebounds and four blocks.

The 76ers started Game 2 hot, jumping out to a 17-10 lead in the first six minutes. Philadelphia’s Andre Miller scored 13 quick points, making six of his first seven shots.

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While Lee led a balanced Orlando attack, the 76ers struggled on offense in the first half. Miller and Thaddeus Young combined to score Philadelphia’s first 25 points (and 31 of the team’s 39 in first half), and Andre Iguodala only scored one point in the first 24 minutes Wednesday.

After the 76ers led by seven early, the Magic took control, pushing its first-half lead to as many as nine before halftime and taking a 46-39 lead into the break. Lee had 11 points in the first half, while Howard only scored four in 18 minutes.

Orlando jumped on the 76ers at the start of the third, making its first three shots and pushing its lead to 55-42 just 2:30 into the second half. Howard followed a Rafer Alston missed with a thunderous one-hand jam to extend the Magic advantage to 18 with 6:40 left in the third.

Eighteen proved to be the magic number for a Philadelphia comeback in Game 1, but after falling behind the same amount again, the 76ers couldn’t get any closer than five points in Game 2.

Miller led the 76ers with 30 points, while Iguodala played a strong second half and ended with 21. Young added 20.

While the 76ers shot 47 percent and the Magic shot 43 percent, Orlando held an advantage at the free throw line, going 22-for-30 (73 percent). Philadelphia shot just 12-for-18 (67 percent).

Lee, the No. 22 pick in last year’s draft out of Western Kentucky, led Orlando on 10-for-17 shooting from the floor, including three-for-four on threes.

Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis each scored 16, while Howard, Alston and reserve Anthony Johnson each scored 11.

Lee, who averaged eight points in 25 minutes during the regular season, is averaging 21 on 53 percent shooting in 39 minutes through two playoff games.

The rookie was the sidekick that “Superman” Howard will need as the Magic hope to advance in the postseason.

Lee will next get a taste of playoff pressure on the road when the series shifts to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Friday.