Howard powers Magic over Cavaliers 97-86
Monday, March 21, 2011; 9:47 PM
CLEVELAND -- Dwight Howard scored 28 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and was way too much for Cleveland's front line to handle in leading the Orlando Magic to a 97-86 win Monday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With the Cavs unable to stop Howard, the Magic built a 15-point lead in the first quarter and were up by 26 late in the third. Cleveland pulled within 92-83 with 3:15 remaining, but Hedo Turkoglu's 3-pointer put Orlando back in control.
Orlando swept all four games against Cleveland, winning the season series for the first time since 2002-03. The teams were heated rivals just a year ago when LeBron James was still with the Cavs, but they're now at opposite ends of the NBA spectrum.
J.J. Hickson scored 18 and Daniel Gibson 16 for the Cavs, who have dropped three straight and nine of 11.
Brandon Bass added 22 points for Orlando. He and Howard combined to go 18 of 21 from the floor against a Cavs team with a very limited inside game.
Howard added four assists, four blocks, four steals and the All-Star center went a shocking 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. He's made only 58 percent of his foul shots this season.
After the game, Howard handed fans his shoes, arm sleeves and jerseys.
When Howard went out with 1:49 left in the third, the Magic were up by 22 and even grumpy Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy seemed somewhat pleased. Howard slapped hands with Orlando's assistant coaches and it appeared his night was over early. But Bass picked up his fifth personal and Van Gundy had to put Howard back in.
The Cavs began knocking down shots and made it interesting in the fourth. They closed within nine on Christian Eyenga's 3-pointer. But Turkoglu ended the comeback bid with his killer 3 from deep in the left corner.
Browns cornerback Joe Haden sat courtside in a full Cavs uniform, complete with wristbands, headband and wine-colored socks.
Cleveland could have used him - or at least a few of his big-bodied teammates.
Orlando's big men abused Cleveland's forwards and centers in the first half
At halftime, the Magic led by 18 and were on cruise control. Howard, Bass and Ryan Anderson were a combined 17 of 20 with 42 points, 19 rebounds and eight dunks.
Cavs coach Byron Scott wanted his big men to be physical with Howard, and on Orlando's first possession, Samardo Samuels locked up the Magic's All-Star with a bear hug in the middle of the lane. Samuels got away with it as Howard was called for 3 seconds.
Howard then had his way.
He drew five personal fouls - two on Samuels, two on Ryan Hollins and one apiece on Hickson and Luke Harongody - in the first quarter alone as Cleveland was forced to hack away at him inside or get dunked on. Howard finished the period with 12 points and nine rebounds.
Orlando closed the first quarter with an 18-4 run to take a 30-15 lead.
Notes: Scott has been watching the NCAA tournament with keen interest. The Cavs will likely have two lottery picks - their own and one they acquired from the Clippers - in this year's draft. "I don't watch the game as a fan, I watch as a coach," he said. "I watch and go, 'He can help us.'" ... Cavs G Baron Davis missed his second game in a row with back spasms. Davis has only played in four games with Cleveland since coming over in a Feb. 24 trade from the Clippers. ... Magic G J.J. Redick sat out his sixth consecutive game with a strained lower abdomen.