GameNight: 7 p.m., 11/04/09, Orlando vs. Phoenix
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ORLANDO (NBA.com exclusive) -- The Orlando Magic bounced back impressively from their first defeat of the season. The Phoenix Suns will get the same test Friday night at Boston.
Dwight Howard scored 17 points in the third quarter Wednesday night while the Magic (4-1) were turning a close game into a 122-100 victory over the previously unbeaten Suns.
Twenty-four hours after taking their first loss of the season at Detroit, the Magic regained their shooting form at home and built a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter.
"I thought that was a very good bounce back for us after a game we were all very unhappy with last night," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "I thought maybe it's the first time in these five games where we played well at both ends of the floor."
The Suns (4-1) will continue their five-game road trip against the unbeaten Celtics on Friday night.
"The dreams of an undefeated season are now done," said Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry. "We hung in, but we had no answer, size-wise, for Dwight Howard. "He creates problems and we have to double-team him, which frees up the shooters."
The bounce-back award went to Ryan Anderson, who came back from a horrendous shooting night in Detroit with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Anderson is plugged into Rashard Lewis' starting spot while the All-Star forward serves a 10-game suspension.
"It's a great opportunity to play now; that's all I'm really looking at," said Anderson.
"I mean, it's Rashard Lewis. It's a given he's going to play; he's an All-Star. He's going to help this team so much when he comes back.
"It will be great to be his backup. I don't know if we're ever going to play together on the court, but I can't really control it."
If nothing else, Anderson might be complicating things for Van Gundy.
"I was curious to see how he would respond after last night," Van Gundy said. "I thought his response was pretty good for a 21-year-old guy coming off missing 10 threes last night."
The last time the Magic posted two straight victories against the Suns was in 2001, when Howard was a freshman in high school. They beat the Suns in March and are now 14-27 all-time against Phoenix.
Howard, limited by foul trouble for a second straight night, managed to lead the Magic with 25 points, but picked up his third technical foul of the young season.
"It's not a concern," he said. "I get a tech, I can't do anything about it. It's going for a good cause."
Van Gundy, noting that his center is 13 technicals short of a suspension, disagreed.
"It leaves a concern in a lot of ways," he said. "Obviously there's the suspension, and you're not endearing yourselves to the referees. Yes, it's an issue."
Amare Stoudemire's big first half (19 points, 11 rebounds) got the Suns back in the game after the Magic had vaulted to a 27-13 lead.
Jared Dudley and Goran Dragic came off the bench to spark a 14-5 Phoenix spurt which reduced Orlando's lead to three at one point.
But Howard came out with a vengeance in the second half.
"We wanted to get it under double figures and see what we could do in the second half," Stoudemire said. "Coming off of a back-to-back kind of weighed in on us and fatigue set in during the third quarter. It was hard to get into it from that point."
Phoenix starters Grant Hill and Jason Richardson went scoreless in a combined 39-plus minutes.
The Magic played their second game without Vince Carter, who re-injured his left ankle during Tuesday night's loss at Detroit.
Van Gundy said he knew Carter would not be available when he couldn't return to Tuesday's game in the fourth quarter.
"I don't think we're dealing with anything too serious or long term," Van Gundy said.
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STATS -- With Steve Nash once again playing like a two-time MVP, the Phoenix Suns have been one of the league's biggest surprises through the first week of the season.
Nash looks to help the Suns open with five consecutive wins for the first time in 25 years Wednesday night when they visit the Orlando Magic, who return home after suffering their first loss.
After finishing ninth in the Western Conference last season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2004, Phoenix is one of three remaining undefeated teams in the league in 2009-10. The others - Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers - are the last two NBA champions.
The Suns posted a 104-96 victory over previously unbeaten Miami on Tuesday to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2004-05. Phoenix hasn't opened a season with five consecutive victories since 1984-85.
"We don't read anything into being 4-0. We really don't,'' coach Alvin Gentry said.
A big reason for the fast start has been the play of Nash.
Last season, the 35-year-old point guard averaged 15.7 points and 9.7 assists - his fewest since averaging 8.8 assists for Dallas in 2003-04 - but he's averaging 12.5 assists and 21.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting in 2009-10.
Nash, winner of consecutive MVP awards in 2004-05 and 2005-06, scored 30 points, shot 11 of 15 from the field and added eight assists against the Heat. He was clutch down the stretch, scoring 25 after halftime and making 10 of his final 11 shots over the last 27 minutes.
"He came out in that third quarter and put on a clinic,'' Suns forward Grant Hill said. "It was really fun to watch.''
Nash averaged 20.5 points and 9.0 assists in two games against Orlando last season, when each team won on its home court.
To extend their winning streak, Nash and the Suns may want to employ the same strategy Detroit used in its 85-80 victory over the Magic (3-1) on Tuesday.
The Pistons went right after Orlando's Dwight Howard and frustrated him into fouling out in just 17 minutes. The three-time All-Star center finished with eight points and five rebounds, and along the way he re-aggravated a shoulder injury sustained in Sunday's 125-116 victory at Toronto.
"It's just very, very sore, but it is hard when you get hit so hard every night,'' said Howard, who averaged 21.7 points on 62.9 percent shooting and 16.0 rebounds in the first three games. "I'm a big guy, but it still hurts when I'm getting hit this much. It's getting worse, but I have to keep my composure and try not to complain. The last two games, though, I've been very close to going off.''
Howard averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 boards against the Suns in 2008-09. After trading Shaquille O'Neal in the offseason, the Suns will now rely on Channing Frye and Amare Stoudemire to adequately defend Orlando's center.
If Frye and Stoudemire succeed, the Magic may need guard Jameer Nelson to pick up his production - especially considering Vince Carter is being slowed by ankle problems.
Nelson finished with seven points, six assists and five turnovers Tuesday after scoring 30 with five assists and two turnovers against the Raptors. He had 16 points in his only game against the Suns last season, a 113-112 loss Dec. 12 in Phoenix.
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Live Baseline Blog:
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Nov. 4 vs. Phoenix: Orlando is 12-27 all-time vs. Phoenix (7-12 at home, 5-15 on the road) during regular season action,…The Magic went 1-1 last season against the Suns…Orlando has lost 17 of the last 23 outings with the Suns overall…The Magic have split the last eight games at home, but lost 10 of the last 12 in Phoenix…Matt Barnes played 77 games in 2008-09 for the Suns, averaging 10.2 ppg.
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. SUNS: 44 pts., Tracy McGrady (@ Orlando, 2-20-01)
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. MAGIC: 39 pts., Leandro Barbosa (@ Orlando, 11-10-07)
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