Magic 95, 76ers 85
''As I was in the air, I was talking to him,'' Howard said to laughter. ''Jameer, what did I tell him in mid-air?''
''I don't know why he jumped,'' Howard said. ''He wanted to be in the poster with me because we both wear Adidas.''
Howard had 19 points, 13 rebounds and one unforgettable dunk in his return from a one-game suspension, leading Orlando to a 95-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
Nelson served up the play in the third quarter that had the Magic hysterical in the locker room as they relived the super slam. Nelson skipped around Holiday at halfcourt, broke to the rim and lobbed a hook pass to the 6-foot-11 center.
Holiday hustled along with the play but was badly out of position with his back to Howard after an awkward and futile leap to break up the pass.
Howard thundered home two points.
''Jrue's a nice guy,'' Howard said. ''Sometimes, like your momma says, 'When you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, bad things happen.'''
Howard ripped a stat sheet out of Nelson's hand and scanned the roster for previous victims.
''(Andres) Nocioni, yeah, he's in one of my posters,'' Howard said, rattling names down the list. ''Yeah, they're all on my posters.''
Howard's one-liners and stat lines were sharp after missing a game for picking up his 18th technical foul. He wasn't bothered by the refs - or the Sixers - in his return, dominating the boards with no one in the undersized Sixers lineup able to stop him.
Ryan Anderson had 18 points and 14 rebounds, and Nelson scored 19 points for the Magic, who had a 23-rebound edge at one point in the second quarter and used a 16-2 run in the third to shake off the pesky Sixers.
Elton Brand led Philadelphia with 22 points. The Sixers are stuck on 41 wins and needs one in Wednesday's finale for its first winning record since 2004-05. They are the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and will play No. 2 Miami.
For the Sixers, this was a 48-minute preview of what could be ahead in a postseason matchup against the Heat. They hustled, never quit, made a big run, but they don't have the talent to match up over the long haul with guys like Howard and Nelson, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
The Sixers lost all three games against the Heat this season.
The encouraging numbers for the Sixers weren't found in the stat sheet, but in their bios. They started four players under 24: Evan Turner (22), Spencer Hawes (22), Jodie Meeks (23) and Holiday (20). It's a promising nucleus that the Sixers expect to grow into a contender, even if taking their lumps against the Heat is part of the process.
Each team was shorthanded in their penultimate games of the season.
Philadelphia played without swingman Andre Iguodala (knee tendinitis) and guard Lou Williams (hamstring), who missed his fourth straight game. Sixers coach Doug Collins wanted Iguodala to rest before the playoffs start, and he's not sure if he'll play in Wednesday's finale against Detroit.
Gilbert Arenas (sore leg) missed the game for Orlando, J.J. Redick missed his 16th straight game with a lower abdominal strain, and Quentin Richardson served the second of a two-game suspension for shoving Charlotte's Gerald Henderson in the face during a win last week.
Led by Howard and Anderson, the Magic destroyed the Sixers on the boards. At one point in the second quarter, the Magic had outrebounded the Sixers 25-2.
The Magic went into halftime with 22 points in the paint and held the Sixers without any second-chance points.
''I thought it was a typographical error when I got one of the stat sheets and we were outrebounded 25-2,'' Collins said. ''I don't know if I've ever seen that in my entire life. Ever.''
Even with those lopsided numbers, the Magic only led 50-47 at the break. The Sixers made more baskets from the field and the free-throw line, and Nocioni hit a pair of 3s during a 14-0 run that lifted them back into the game.
Holiday's 3-pointer early in the third gave the Sixers their first lead of the game, 54-52.
Then the fun ended for Philly.
''I'm not on high alert, but we want to be prepared,'' Brand said. ''We have one more game to tune it up.''
The Magic scored the first 11 points of a 16-2 run that put the game way. Nelson both fed Howard for the game-changing alley-oop and hit a 3 during the run.
Former Sixers coach Jim O'Brien once said Nelson wasn't ''best suited for the Sixers'' before the 2004 draft. Nelson, the Chester, Pa., native and former Saint Joseph's star, looked right at home on Monday.
''You always play good in Philly, 'cept you have a lot of turnovers,'' Howard told his locker neighbor.
''I don't care,'' said Nelson, who had five. ''We won.''
Notes: Howard says he won't change the way he plays even as his technical foul total earns him league-mandated suspensions. ''Why switch up who I am?'' he said. ... The Magic finished 23-18 on the road. They finished with a winning road record for the fourth straight season. ... Holiday had 15 points and 11 assists.