Howard Leads Surging Magic Past Heat
Orlando 93, Miami 84
MIAMI, April 9 (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard reveled in his role of a spoiler.
Howard scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Orlando Magic extended their late-season surge with a 93-84 victory over the Miami Heat.
Orlando is three games behind Philadelphia and Chicago for the final playoff berth with six games left.
"It's all about playing hard every night and letting the rest take care of itself," Howard said. "We're beating some of the best teams and we're doing it by coming up big defensively when it counts."
Plagued by fatigue following a 99-86 win at Washington on Saturday, the Heat (50-27) lost the game they picked up on surging New Jersey (47-29) from Saturday, cutting their cushion for second place in the East to 2 1/2 games.
"They (Miami) had a tough game last night in Washington and we had to try and take advantage of that," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "We did a good job in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter shutting down the paint."
Jameer Nelson scored nine of his 26 points in the third quarter as Orlando forged its largest lead of the game at 68-48 with 7:11 remaining.
Miami fought back to close to 75-70 behind consecutive baskets by Dwyane Wade in the opening moments of the fourth, but Keyon Dooling answered back with a jumper and a 3-pointer and Howard controlled the play inside the rest of the way to seal the win.
"Good teams are going to make runs at us, but we just had to stay focused," Dooling said. "It's gratifying because we stepped up and collectively got it done."
Howard, who finished 4-of-6 from the field with eight rebounds, took a pass from Bo Outlaw for a dunk and an 87-73 edge with 6:22 remaining. He also dunked home a missed layup by Dooling with five minutes left.
"It's all about energy and playing with confidence, and we had both those things going for us tonight," Howard said.
Wade scored 27 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 16 for the Heat, who committed 20 turnovers in losing consecutive games at home for the first time in more than two years. Miami last dropped two straight games here with losses to Portland and Toronto between February 23-March 2, 2004.
"I'm absolutely staggered by that but not totally surprised," Riley said. "When it comes right down to it, I just coached a horrible game. I started the wrong lineup, made the wrong substitutions and called the wrong plays."
Wade said this time it was the Magic who made the key run at crunch time.
"Usually that's our game," Wade said. "Every time we made a run they came back and made a run. This team (Orlando) came out and beat us. We were a couple of shots and a couple of defensive plays short tonight."