Howard fuels Magic to 5th straight win
With little down time during this fast-paced NBA season, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has been anticipating a night when his team had to rely on unconventional methods to stay in games.
Van Gundy's predictions finally came to fruition Tuesday night against Charlotte as the Magic needed late baskets from unusual suspects and timely defensive stops to preserve a 96-89 win - their fifth straight - over the Bobcats.
Dwight Howard had 25 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Magic, which survived 18 turnovers to win for the 10th time in 12 games.
Jameer Nelson added 17 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 15 and Von Wafer 13 as the Magic won for the 10th time in 12 games. Turkoglu and Wafer each scored eight points each in a decisive fourth-quarter run to help preserve the victory.
''We gotta keep rolling, we gotta keep playing and not think too much into it,'' forward Ryan Anderson said of the Magic's current run. ''I think that we've beat some really good teams, and just as important we need to keep our heads and really stay focused down the stretch like we did tonight.''
Gerald Henderson had 22 points for Charlotte, which has lost eight of its last nine. The Bobcats are also winless in their last five trips to Orlando.
Charlotte stayed close throughout the game and pulled within a basket late in the fourth quarter before Ryan Anderson's 3-pointer extended Orlando's lead to 86-81 with 1:33 to play. The Bobcats never got closer.
''We threw the ball away too much,'' Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. ''We defended Howard very well and then we started going in the lane too much for help, then they kicked the ball out for 3s.
''That was the game right there when they made those shots. But we hung in there. We're just not there yet, but we're getting there.''
Henderson agreed with his coach's assessment.
''We are playing better,'' he said. ''I think it is at the end of games that we have to lock down and execute. I think we will be better off with experience and kind of have to learn to win.''
Another victory aside, Van Gundy said there is still a lot to work on the defensive end. Charlotte shot 46 percent from the field (36 for 77) Tuesday after coming in shooting just 39 percent in the second half of games this season. Still, he liked his team's resiliency late in the game.
The Magic also connected on 46 percent of their shots (36 for 78) for the game, but were just 7 for 22 (31 percent) from the 3-point line after hitting at least 10 in four straight outings.
''We've relied on our shooting and so when we have a night where offensively we're not very good and the ball's not dropping, then we get ourselves into trouble,'' Van Gundy said. ''We've got to be able to rely on our defense, which I think in the second half we did.''
Charlotte went into halftime with a 50-47 advantage after a scrappy first half that included eight ties and seven lead changes.
Both teams shot 48 percent from the field, but the Magic struggled from both the 3-point line (3 for 10) and at the free-throw line (4 for 10). Charlotte was for 4 for 8 beyond the arc and a perfect 8 for 8 from the line, in addition to holding a 22-20 rebounding edge.
The Bobcats benefited from some Magic foul trouble in the opening 12 minutes to take a seven-point lead.
Howard and Turkoglu were forced to the bench after picking up two fouls each less than five minutes into the game.
Without two of Orlando's starters to deal with Charlotte closed the quarter on a 16-5 run. Henderson led all scorers with eight first-quarter points.
The Magic host San Antonio Wednesday and get a one-day break before the Los Angeles Lakers visit Friday night.
Unconventional or not, Howard said he likes the buzz that is coming out of the locker room right now with tougher games and stretches awaiting them on the schedule.
''Playing some great basketball - just got to keep it up,'' Howard said. ''We picked it up a little bit. We just have to be consistent and understand that this is going to be a tough season.''
Notes: Magic G Jason Richardson missed his second consecutive game with a bone bruise in his left knee. ... After playing five games in six days, the Bobcats are off until Saturday when they play at Chicago to begin a stretch of four games in five nights.