WASHINGTON (AP)—As the regular season winds down, the Orlando Magic will be keeping a close eye on the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Here’s something else they’re going to monitor: Dwight Howard’s technical foul count.
Howard had 18 points, 13 rebounds, a career-high seven assists and five blocks in Orlando’s 112-103 victory over the worst-in-the East Washington Wizards on Friday night, and he also collected his 13th tech this season.
Three more, he knows, and he’ll have to sit out.
“Well, sometimes during the game, the superheroes tend to lose their focus, and I kind of lost mine tonight, got a tech,” Howard said, “but I tried to re-gather myself and finish the game.”
His ire was fueled by three goaltending calls in a 2 1/2 -minute span of the fourth quarter, and he wondered aloud afterward if some legitimate blocks were taken away from his total.
“You’ve got to credit the refs for messing up my triple-double tonight,” Howard said with a laugh. “It was so close. Dang the refs. Nah, I love those guys.”
He and Stan Van Gundy also were bothered by a charging call against Howard, with the Magic coach wandering onto the court to sarcastically applaud and laugh in an official’s direction.
Perhaps what really irked the pair was the Magic were barely beating the woeful Wizards.
“I was not happy with our defense,” Van Gundy said. “I didn’t think we even came into the game with much focus defensively.”
Young even drove by Howard along the baseline once en route to a thunderous slam. Not much later, Young tried to beat the big guy to the rim again on a reverse dunk, only to have Howard swat that one away.
“After he blocked the second one, he told me, ‘I let you get the first one.’ I was like, ‘Thanks,”’ Young said.
Orlando’s depth was more than undermanned Washington could handle, and the Magic used a 13-6 run down the stretch for their sixth victory in seven games.
This one did not come as easily as one might have thought. Consider: The Magic already clinched a playoff spot and entered the day leading the Southeast Division by 10 1/2 games. The Wizards, meanwhile, are now 15-51 and 0-14 against the division.
Plus, the Magic had won each of the teams’ three previous meetings this season, by an average score of 100-84.
But Young’s jumper with a little under 7 minutes left got Washington within one. And it was still only a two-point game, the Magic up 99-97, with 3 1/2 minutes to go, before Rashard Lewis’ 3-pointer gave the visitors a bit of a cushion.
Lewis finished with 19 points, and Mickael Pietrus had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
As if the Wizards didn’t already have enough problems—what with Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson sidelined by injuries—two-time All-Star Caron Butler sat out the second half with a tight hamstring. And reserve forward Andray Blatche left in the second half with a bum ankle.
“Nothing is really surprising me anymore, as far as guys getting hurt and not being able to play,” Jamison said.
Butler, who missed three games earlier this month because of that muscle, had five points on 1-for-7 shooting. He said afterward he wasn’t sure whether he’ll be able to play in Washington’s next game, on Sunday against Sacramento.
Even without him, even though they trailed by as many as 14 points, the Wizards wouldn’t go quietly.
About 4 1/2 minutes after his technical, Howard was whistled for charging into JaVale McGee, a call that left Howard shaking his head and brought Van Gundy onto the court.
“He’s got a lot of technicals, so he’s got to watch it,” Van Gundy said. “We don’t want to lose him for a game.”
There were plenty of jeers for Orlando’s J.J. Redick, who went to Maryland’s ACC rival Duke. “I expected boos tonight, and sure enough they came. Early. Often. It’s fun. Sometimes things amaze me,” he said afterward, then told of one particular fan near the Orlando sideline who kept repeating a particular taunt. “First of all, it’s probably the 9,000th time I’ve heard that. But I’m sitting there, and I’m thinking, ‘This guy’s probably a Maryland fan, and they’re barely going to make the tournament, and the Wizards aren’t having a good year, and that’s the best you can come up with?”’