Orlando 115, Chicago 83

ORLANDO, Fla., April 9 (AP) -- To the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff field, a note: It's going to take more than a knock to the head and a fat lip to slow down Dwight Howard.

Playing with six stitches in his upper lip after a day after a practice collision with 6-foot-11 reserve Marcin Gortat, Howard had 30 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Magic past the Chicago Bulls 115-83 on Wednesday night.

It didn't affect Howard's game, but "it is affecting my modeling career,'' the All-Star said. "Just for a couple days.''

Kirk Hinrich led Chicago with 19 points, while Ben Gordon and Aaron Gray each scored 13. Tyrus Thomas tied a career high with five blocks.

Neither team had much to play for. The Magic have already locked up the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Bulls were eliminated after a seven-point loss at Miami on Tuesday. It is the first time in three years Chicago hasn't made the postseason.

"I feel like we're not really playing with a lot of pride and respect for the jersey in front of us,'' said Bulls rookie Joakim Noah, who had two points and five rebounds. "It's just hard because you can't point at anybody individually, it's just the togetherness of the team is bad.''

The Magic committed six turnovers in the game's first six minutes, and Chicago led by eight in the first quarter.

But Orlando, on two days rest, took control with a 13-0 run in the second quarter. Howard was spectacular in the stretch, scoring 11, blocking a shot and converting a 3-point play to give Orlando a a 51-36 lead.

Howard recorded his NBA-leading 67th double-double, one short of Shaquille O'Neal's franchise record from the 1992-93 season. He hadn't broken 20 points in three games this month and scored just four Saturday at Cleveland.

"I just wanted to come out and play a lot better than I did the last two games,'' Howard said. "I didn't think I brought myself mentally and physically to the game, so I just wanted to come out tonight with a great effort on both ends.''

Rashard Lewis finished with 21 points and seven rebounds for Orlando, Carlos Arroyo had 13 points and six assists and Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Chicago drew within 78-70 on a 17-7 run in the third quarter, but no closer. The Bulls scored just two points in the fourth quarter's first 2 1/2 minutes. Howard punctuated the win with a thunderous dunk over Andres Nocioni with about eight minutes left that put Orlando ahead 95-75.

"We caused a couple of turnovers on him early,'' Bulls coach Jim Boylan said. "They are a good combination of inside and outside. They've got a lot of perimeter shooters and they've got the big fella inside, so it was tough for us.''

Notes: Magic F-C Tony Battie said Wednesday he definitely wouldn't return in time for the playoffs. Battie had rotator cuff surgery in October and was a long-shot to come back this season. "I'm not 100 percent yet, and you don't want to risk throwing me out there and reinjuring,'' he said. ... Fans gave assistant Orlando coach Patrick Ewing a standing ovation during a video montage of his career highlights. Ewing was elected to the Hall of Fame on Monday ... The teams play again in Chicago on Sunday.


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