Magic 106, Timberwolves 97
No one has ever led the NBA in rebounding and blocked shots two seasons in a row, but that piece of history is about to change.
Orlando center Dwight Howard had 19 rebounds and four blocked shots Friday night to add to his league-leading totals in both categories, and added 24 points for good measure as the Magic handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their 15th straight loss, 106-97.
``What Dwight's doing is really unbelievable,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``He's so far out in front of everybody in those two categories that he might have to average like two or three rebounds and block three or four more shots to win. He's just having a phenomenal year.''
Howard received some help from Magic reserves Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick, who led a 18-6 run to start the fourth quarter gave the Magic a 21-point lead and put the pesky Timberwolves away. Anderson and Redick had 16 of the 18 points and both hit a pair of 3-pointers during the run.
``All the individual accomplishments are great, but winning a championship is what we're really looking forward to,'' Howard said. ``I'll look back 20 years from now and be happy about breaking records and stuff, but I just want to win a championship.''
Anderson, who has played only once in the previous six games, finished with 19 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. Redick added 14 points.
``J.J. and I have been playing in this unit together all season,'' Anderson said. ``We know what each other can do. We're both shooters so we know where we can the ball to each other. I'm definitely comfortable with all the guys, but J.J. in particular.''
``I hit my first couple of shots and that really helps you settle in.''
For Minnesota, it was more of the same in what has become a long, tiring season. The Timberwolves traded leads 11 times with the Magic in the second quarter and used a late spurt at the end of the third quarter to cut a 15-point deficit to 82-73, but that was it.
They didn't have an answer for either Anderson or Redick in the final period, trailing by as many as 21 points before hitting some meaningless 3-pointers in the final minute.
Al Jefferson led the Timberwolves with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn and Kevin Love each scored 14, but it was not nearly enough to end a streak that started more than a month ago.
``We came out flat in the third quarter and that's where we lose games,'' Milicic said. ``We have a lot of games where we're right there at halftime and then come out flat. I don't know why. We've been doing it all season.''
The Magic started the second half with a 15-5 run that gave them a 74-59 lead with 5:42 left in the third quarter. Jameer Nelson and Carter finished the run with back-to-back 3-pointers as Orlando punished the Timberwolves for laying back in the paint to help defend Howard.
Minnesota trimmed the deficit to 82-73 by the end of the period, but Redick opened the fourth quarter with a pair of 3-pointers and the Magic lead was back to 15 points. Minnesota never got closer than 11 after that.
Jefferson scored 14 points and Milicic 10 in the first half, when Minnesota battled the Magic basket-for-basket. The Timberwolves hit 10 of their first 16 shots from the field and finished the half shooting 51 percent against the NBA's best field goal percentage defensive team.
Matt Barnes hit a 3-pointer that gave Orlando a 59-54 halftime advantage. The Magic shot 57 percent for the half (24 of 42), but committed 10 turnovers that kept things close.
NOTES: The Timberwolves have won only once since Super Bowl Sunday. That's 21 losses in their last 22 games. Anderson, who played 23 minutes, played only once in the previous six games. ... Carter has a team-high 34 assists in the last six games.