Magic 94, Bulls 87
Howard scored 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds—to go with 11 turnovers— Monday night as the Magic beat the Chicago Bulls 94-87.
“I had a triple double the wrong way—11 turnovers. I’ve got to do a little better than that,” said Howard, who also had a key tip to keep an offensive rebound alive in the closing seconds that led to a pair of clinching free throws by Hedo Turkoglu.
Orlando overcame 27 turnovers with the punishing inside play of Howard and Darko Milicic, who added 14 points, blocked five shots and matched Howard with 16 rebounds—a career high. The Magic dominated the boards 49-31 with 19 offensive rebounds.
“They did a good job of playing off each other,” Chicago’s Ben Wallace said. “That’s what this league is all about. You go to one guy and somebody else steps up.”
Jameer Nelson also had a solid game for the Magic, now 10-18 on the road after breaking an overall four-game losing streak. He scored 18 points and made three straight free throws after he was fouled twice in a span of four seconds by Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich.
Those free throws gave the Magic a five-point lead with less than two minutes left and they increased it to six on a Nelson jumper. Chicago’s Ben Gordon, who had 32 points, hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 90-87 with 36.9 seconds to play.
With the shot clocking running down, Turkoglu put a jumper that missed. But Howard tapped the ball and so did Nelson and it went through the hands of the weary Bulls, right back to Turkoglu, who was fouled by Hinrich and made both free throws with 12.3 seconds left. Howard closed out the win with two more from the line.
“It’s frustrating. We have to get a consistent style all the time,” said Gordon, who’d missed a last-second shot Sunday in a loss to Detroit. The Bulls were playing their fourth game in five days and it showed. Orlando also played and lost Sunday.
“We didn’t have energy all the way through,” Gordon said.
Luol Deng added 23 points for the Bulls.
“I didn’t really see a letdown,” Howard said. “They played hard the whole game, but I think we just did our best to get stops.”
Howard’s dunk on a pass from Nelson tied the game at 82, and after a 24-second violation on the Bulls, Howard hit two free throws to give Orlando the lead. Nelson then hit three straight from the line for an 87-82 lead with 1:43 to go.
Howard then knocked the ball away from Gordon before Keyon Dooling made one of two from the line with 1:29 left and the Magic had a six-point cushion.
Down seven in the third quarter, the Bulls tied the game when Gordon got hot, hitting a 3-pointers and a pair of jumpers, the final one with two seconds to go in the period.
^Notes: Gordon said he expected to have sore left little toe X-rayed after the game. He has a soft corn that has been bothering him for about a week and has been taking pain medication so he can play. … Skiles said the Bulls have no idea when Andres Nocioni might return. Nocioni has a plantar fasciitis in his right foot, has missed 10 of the last 11 games and could be out another month. Skiles said if it stretches out and Nocioni misses six weeks which could keep him out the rest of the regular season, the Bulls have to compensate. “We got to go on,” he said of losing the energetic forward. … The Magic had lost six straight on the road before the victory. … Howard was 7-for-10 from the field and is now 107-for-150 in his last 12 games.