Magic 78, Bucks 72
Dwight Howard had 18 points and 17 rebounds, Jameer Nelson scored 17 and the Orlando Magic beat the Milwaukee Bucks 78-72 on Tuesday night.
Coupled with Atlanta's 97-90 loss to San Antonio, the Magic clinched the No. 4 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs. Orlando won three of four in the season series to improve to 16-5 in its last 21 meetings against the Bucks.
Orlando shot just 38 percent, including a stretch of 19 straight misses from the 3-point line.
Milwaukee's dwindling playoff hopes took a big hit. Entering Tuesday, any combination of two Bucks losses or victories by idle Indiana eliminated them from postseason contention. Milwaukee could be officially eliminated Wednesday if it loses at Miami.
Drew Gooden scored 18 points for the Bucks, and Keyon Dooling finished with 10.
Nelson, who had logged 42 minutes in each of the Magic's previous two games, was able to get a little more rest Tuesday with backup point guards Gilbert Arenas and Chris Duhon both returning to the active list.
Arenas had missed two straight games with flulike symptoms and Duhon three consecutive games with a sprained ligament in his right thumb. Arenas first relieved Nelson in the opening quarter and played 16 minutes against the Bucks. Duhon entered for the first time in the second quarter and played 11 minutes while wearing a protective brace on his hand.
Orlando led by as many as 16 in the first half, but Jennings' running layup tied it at 61 with 9:23 remaining in the game. Milwaukee threatened to take the lead on several trips over the next three minutes, but struggled to get the go-ahead bucket to fall.
The Magic opened a 70-64 lead before Gooden converted two three-point plays to leave it tied again at 72. Nelson responded with a deep jumper that put Orlando in front again, Andrew Bogut had a turnover on the other end, and Hedo Turkoglu hit a jumper to make it 76-72 with just 47.6 seconds left.
Jennings missed a 3 on the Bucks' next trip and a rebound by the Magic helped seal it.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy gave his team the day off Monday and also canceled its usual gameday shootaround. The rest seemed to help early as Orlando jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening five minutes and led 42-33 at the break.
As impressive as the opening spurt was, neither team was particularly impressive in the first half offensively.
Milwaukee shot just 32 percent from the floor with eight turnovers. Orlando shot 55 percent (11 for 20) in the first quarter, but just 2 for 14 in the second. The Magic had 11 turnovers of their own, but were able to keep the lead at the free-throw line, connecting on 14 of their 20 attempts.
The Bucks missed their first eight shots of the game, prompting Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles to call a timeout with 6:40 left. He benched his entire starting five the rest of the period and for the start of the second quarter.
Milwaukee didn't get its first basket until Gooden scored with 6:31 to play in the first via a goaltending call on Howard.
NOTES: Van Gundy was whistled for his ninth technical foul of the season with 2:48 remaining in the second quarter. It tied him with Portland's Nate McMillan for the league lead among coaches. ... Magic G J.J. Redick sat out his 13th straight game with a lower abdominal strain. Van Gundy said they expect to know more about his prognosis on Thursday or Friday.