Howard had 21 points and 16 rebounds to help the Orlando Magic beat the Jazz 88-75 Monday night in a matchup of the teams with the best records in each conference.
Howard recorded his sixth straight double-double and ninth this season. He is averaging 19.1 points and 15.8 rebounds in seven road games this season and Orlando won its first game of a six-game, 11-day Western Conference road trip.
“We couldn’t do anything with Howard,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “He’s so big and long, we couldn’t keep him off the boards. He got huge rebounds, and he obviously made his free throws.”
Howard shot 13-of-16 from the foul line and Grant Hill, who missed Saturday’s game to attend a funeral for his grandmother, scored 16 points for Orlando (11-4).
“Last year, we may have kicked it away but this year is a new year,” said Jameer Nelson, who finished with 15 points. “This is a big win. This is a big start for us.”
The two best shooting teams in the league misfired much of the game but Orlando controlled the glass and the paint. Led by Howard, the Magic outrebounded the league’s top team in rebounding margin, 45-36, and outscored the Jazz in the lane, 40-32.
“The big thing is we were able to get stops at the other end of the court,” Orlando coach Brian Hill said. “We did a good job getting to the free-throw line and getting balls off the glass that gave us a lot of extra possessions on a night where we frankly didn’t shoot the ball well.”
Carlos Arroyo, who played three seasons in Utah, scored seven points of his 13 points in an 11-2 run early in the fourth quarter, helping the Magic to their eighth win in nine games.
Howard’s two free throws lifted the Magic to their biggest lead of the night at 81-60 with 5:28 remaining. The Jazz, who have twice come back from 16-point deficits to win games in the past two weeks, rallied to get within eight.
Andrei Kirilenko capped a 13-0 run with a dunk off a loose ball with 2:08 to play, cutting it to 81-73.
But Hill answered with a jumper from the corner. Carlos Boozer missed two free throws and then Mehmet Okur was called for technical foul and ejected after he was called for traveling with 1:08 to play and he batted the ball high into the crowd.
Boozer finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, Okur had 13 points and Kirilenko added 11. Okur also had nine boards.
“We couldn’t really get our boards,” Kirilenko said of Orlando’s 15 offensive rebounds. “They just dominate us on our boards and I really don’t have an answer.”
Utah (12-3) committed 12 turnovers in the first half and trailed 47-41 at halftime.
“They did a terrific job of keeping us in a halfcourt game,” Sloan said. “They did a terrific job of defending us. They pretty much had their way all night long.”
Utah shot 43 percent from the field, compared to 40 percent for the Magic. … The Jazz failed to match their best home start of eight straight wins in the 1998-99 season. … The Magic are off to their best start through 15 games since the 1998-99 season, when they reached the playoffs but lost in the first round. … Entering play Monday, Howard (13.5) and Boozer (12.7) were the top two rebounders in the league. … The Magic are off to their best start through 15 games since the 1998-99 season, when they reached the playoffs but lost in the first round.