Magic edge Bobcats 92-77, take 2-0 series lead

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—The Vince Carter(notes)-Dwight Howard duo again wasn’t so dynamic — just good enough to win.

For now, that’s all the Orlando Magic need.

Carter finished with 19 points, Howard scored 15 and the Magic took a 2-0 series lead with a 92-77 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

“Fortunate thing for us,” Carter said, “is we have a lot of weapons.”

The Magic’s star combo was less than stellar, but took over when it counted most. They combined for 21 second-half points to help Orlando build a 20-point lead and hold on late.

Still, they know they’ll have to be better to compete for a title.

“I can’t allow it to frustrate me,” Howard said. “Really just trying to keep my head. It’s bigger than myself. We’re playing for something bigger.”

Charlotte is simply playing for a win.

Stephen Jackson(notes) showed no effects from his hyperextended left knee to score 27 points, and Gerald Wallace(notes) had 15 points for the Bobcats. But their 21 turnovers are a big reason why they’re heading home still searching for the franchise’s first playoff win.

Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Saturday in Charlotte.

“They’re being more aggressive,” Jackson said. “They’re being the more physical team. They’re making the first hit. They’re just out there playing like they want to win more than we do. We’re waiting until they hit to respond, and then it’s too late.”

This one wasn’t the prettiest playoff basketball.

The Bobcats went more than eight minutes to start the game with only three points, and had just one field goal with six turnovers during the stretch. The goods news for them: The Magic were almost as bad early.

The first half was a turnoverfest for both teams, and nobody could consistently hit a shot. Things were so out of sorts that the normally sharpshooting J.J. Redick(notes) even badly missed the free throw from Charlotte coach Larry Brown’s technical foul in the second quarter.

The Magic were 24 for 35 on free throws, while the Bobcats were 13 for 18. That wasn’t enough for Brown.

“We had three players that played tonight that got to the foul line, and one of them took one shot, one free throw,” he said. “Can’t play that way. Maybe we’ve got to get more respect, I don’t know.”

The Magic put together the closest thing to a run, and they slowly went ahead 41-30 at the half on Ryan Anderson’s(notes) 3-pointer. With Charlotte’s 14 first-half turnovers, though, they could’ve been up more.

Eventually, they would. The Magic’s star pairing finally showed up.

Howard used a drop step, spun right and hammered home a rim-rocking dunk over Tyson Chandler(notes) that started a big Magic push. He had nine points in the first five-plus minutes of the third before picking up his fourth foul, again relegating him to the bench.

Then, Carter took the reins.

Orlando’s biggest offseason acquisition, Carter sliced his way through the lane for several layups late in the third quarter. He anchored a run that put the Magic ahead 75-55 after three quarters with their entire bench standing, waving towels, shouting and smiling as they pulled ahead big.

After Charlotte trimmed the lead to eight with 3:16, Carter followed with a jumper. Then Jackson missed a layup, and Jameer Nelson(notes) raced down court to convert a three-point play that sealed Orlando’s win.

Jackson stood with his head band knocked sideways, pleading with official Bennett Salvatore for a whistle. It wouldn’t come.

“I knew my headband didn’t get knocked off by itself,” Jackson said.

The Magic now find themselves in a position that was unfamiliar in last year’s NBA finals run: a little series cushion.

They were down 2-1 to Philadelphia, trailed Boston 3-2 and went down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. Beating Cleveland in the conference finals in six games was the only series Orlando didn’t trail in last season.

NOTES: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy took exception that two voters left Howard, who won the NBA’s defensive player of the year award in a landslide, off their top three in the ballot. “I don’t want to get into too much name-calling, but you have to be an absolute idiot,” Van Gundy said. … A day after Brown tried to motivate his players by saying the Magic weren’t taking the series seriously because they didn’t practice Monday, Van Gundy just said he thought the remark was “humorous. … Golfer Michelle Wie posted on her Twitter account that she was sitting courtside. Bobcats majority owner Michael Jordan was sitting on the baseline next to his team’s bench with his son, Marcus, a freshman guard for Central Florida.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Charlotte
S. Jackson Stephen Jackson
10-20,  27 Pts
3 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Orlando
V. Carter Vince Carter
5-10,  19 Pts
5 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

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Rebounds
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Wednesday, Apr 21