ORLANDO, Fla. — The warm-up acts are over.
A perfect preseason? Gone. An opening-night blowout? Forgotten. For the Orlando Magic, LeBron James and the new-look Miami Heat await.
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lift the Magic to an easy 112-83 victory over the Washington Wizards in the debut of No. 1 pick John Wall on Thursday night, giving the NBA's newest arena a grand opening and setting the stage for a sizzling Sunshine State series showdown.
After months of talk, Superman and all his sidekicks finally have a chance to make a real statement.
Some couldn't even wait another night.
"Honestly, I'm sick of listening every hour about Miami — Miami that, how great they are, how big they are, what kind of record they gonna have," said backup center Marcin Gortat, who had eight points and seven rebounds. "I get every day interviews back in Poland, people calling me about Miami, Miami, what you think about Miami? What you think about Big Three? I'm going to say the same thing: they are a great team, they have three superstars, they got a couple good role players on the team. They looking good on the paper, but they got to start winning."
One thing is for sure: Orlando has looked real good.
Vince Carter had 18 points and Jameer Nelson scored 16 to help the Magic cruise to another blowout victory after a perfect preseason. And it didn't seem to matter what the league's most-anticipated rookie did.
Wall had 14 points and nine assists — much of it in cleanup duty — on 6-for-19 shooting in his first meaningful professional game. He showed flashes of stardom but became just another spectator on an emotional night in Orlando.
"It was tough," Wall said. "It's really telling me what I need to work on, but I already know. But as a team aspect, we have a lot we need to work on."
Orlando's opening night couldn't have gone smoother.
A standing-room only crowd of 18,918 even brought out Tiger Woods — once a regular at Magic home games — from his Orlando-area home for the first time since his sex scandal last year. Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard took the microphone to thank fans before the game, and NBA Commissioner David Stern endured a long shower of boos before he proclaimed that there's no arena "better than this facility in the world."
Magic owner Rich DeVos then walked to center court, a cane in his right hand and a team official balancing him on the left, and gave a teary-eyed speech seeing the Amway Center finally realized.
"This is a Magic building. But it's your community center. It's your place for many adventures to take place," said DeVos, 84, his voice quivering. "So we know that this place will be a place of comfort and joy, and that everybody who comes here will be honored and loved and cherished."
The Magic didn't exactly give the same comfort to the visitors.
They showed the same dominance that led them to an undefeated preseason, sprinting out to a double-digit lead from the start behind a flurry of 3-pointers and hard-driving layups. Orlando went ahead by 14 after the first quarter, 58-34 at half and 35 points in the fourth.
And the highlights were everywhere.
Carter had a one-handed, outstretched layup over Al Thornton for a three-point play; Howard met Wall in mid-air to swat the rookie's layup, sent another one into the first row and might have received the first-opening night "M-V-P" chants in league history.
As for Miami, Howard said, "We can make a statement."
The Wizards were simply no match.
Wall came out a little too hyped and took 11 of his team's first 24 shots, making only three. But the former Kentucky star also showed that roderunner-like speed and awesome athleticism.
That wasn't nearly enough.
A Wizards team already enduring growing pains were without Gilbert Arenas, who was back in the Washington area getting treatment on a strained tendon in his right ankle. They will also be without Arenas, the often troubled guard trying to comeback from a 50-game suspension last season after a felony gun conviction for bringing the weapon into the locker room, Saturday night in Atlanta.
The Magic finished the preseason 7-0 and won by an average of almost 25 points per game. They're the three-time defending division champions, two years removed from the NBA finals and still seething about being booted by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals in May.
Oh, all that attention for that LeBron guy who just moved into the neighborhood hasn't sat well either. Orlando's first shot at him is next, and even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had to poke fun at all the hype.
"You guys can decide what's a big game and what's not. If they give me two wins for tomorrow night, then it's a big game," Van Gundy said, later adding, "I'm not big on the human-interest stories."
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