Behind Howard, Magic Stay Alive
Orlando 102, Philadelphia 97
ORLANDO, Fla., April 15 (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard authored a gigantic performance in the biggest game of his young career.
Howard had 28 points and career-high 26 rebounds as the Orlando Magic kept alive their slim playoff hopes with a 102-97 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, whose postseason aspirations took another hit.
Orlando has two games left, but would win a tiebreaker if its finishes tied with Chicago.
"What would have been huge tonight is if I'd have hit more of my free throws," said Howard, who went just 10-of-19 at the free-throw line. "I would have kept some distance between us and them."
"Dwight was sensational," said Magic coach Brian Hill, whose team has won 12 straight at home. "As I've said all year, he's continued to grow and grow and grow and has gotten better in every phase of the game. But to get 26 rebounds. That's a monster effort for anybody and you don't see that too often in today's game."
Howard's follow shot off his own missed free throw with 2:59 remaining gave the Magic the lead for good at 96-95. Nelson added a jumper 36 seconds later for a three-point advantage.
"He (Howard) is great, young and energetic and always fighting," Philadelphia coach Maurice Cheeks said. "On that last play where a lot of players just stay put after a shot, he continued to play and ended up getting the big play."
After Allen Iverson converted a tough driving layup, Nelson hit an open jumper with 1:47 left to make it 100-97.
"Dwight's game was unbelievable," Nelson said. "I've never seen anything like it. Especially since he's so young. It's scary because he's only going to get better."
Iverson scored 36 points - two in the fourth quarter - for Philadelphia (37-43), which fell 1 1/2 games behind Chicago with two to play.
"Yes, Dwight and Jameer were fantastic," Hill said. "But I have to give just as much credit to DeShawn (Stevenson), who was on Allen in the fourth period. Allen really couldn't even get a shot for the last nine minutes of the fourth quarter. He tried to penetrate and couldn't go anywhere. Every shot was highly contested.
"But it's a shame that I had to coach this game. I would have liked to be sitting in the stands watching it."