Orlando 104, Philadelphia 87

PHILADELPHIA, April 14 (AP) -- Dwight Howard is about to get a chance to extend his run of double-doubles, spectacular slams and big blocks into the postseason.

Howard was perfect for a half and dominant the whole game, scoring a career-high 35 points with 11 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic to a 104-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

The Magic couldn't afford any slip-ups over the final games if they wanted to keep their grip on eighth place in the Eastern Conference since they would lose a tiebreaker with ninth-place Indiana.

But the Magic will clinch a playoff spot on Sunday if they beat Boston and the Pacers lose to New Jersey.

"That's a key for us, just to get in there and really experience what the playoffs are all about,'' Magic coach Brian Hill said.

The Magic can thank Howard again for turning this one into an early blowout. The Sixers had no answers around the basket for Howard, who made all 10 shots in the first half and passed his previous high of 32 points with a free throw late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has five straight double-doubles and 57 this season.

"(Boston's) another big game. We need to come out with the same intensity as today,'' Howard said.

The loss officially knocked the Sixers out of playoff contention, something that was considered a mere formality in January when they were among the worst teams in the NBA. But their steadily improved play once they jettisoned Allen Iverson and Chris Webber allowed them to surprisingly play meaningful games late in the season.

Andre Miller led the Sixers with 18 points. Andre Iguodala, Kyle Korver and Louis Williams each scored 14.

Iguodala missed two games with a strained lower back and Korver sat out the previous three with a sprained right wrist, but both players said this one was too important to skip.

Howard, who scored 31 points against Memphis last week, made the crowd gasp a few times with thunderous dunks. He was perfect from the floor until he missed a jumper late in the third quarter - his only miss of the game. Howard matched a career high with 14 field goals and went 7-for-10 from the free-throw line.

"A lot of them were dunks, so it feels pretty good when you can dunk the ball,'' Howard said, smiling. "I'm just happy I got a chance to really open up tonight and get going.''

Howard did most of his damage in an 18-point first quarter, finishing off alley-oops and throwing down uncontested dunks while the Sixers were powerless to stop him. He stepped out on one possession and banked a 13-footer, but he rarely strayed too far from the basket.

"That's what All-Star players do,'' Hill said.

When Howard scored two points in the third quarter, Jameer Nelson took over and swished a jumper from the left side and then hit a 3-pointer to make it 68-48. Grant Hill, who scored 11 points, gave Orlando a 22-point lead with a jumper.

Darko Milicic added 14 points and Hedo Turkoglu had 13 for the Magic. The Magic would play top-seeded Detroit in the playoffs, the same team that eliminated Orlando in the first round of their last postseason appearance in 2003.

"We will make the playoffs,'' Nelson said. "We've played in big stages before in our lives. Everybody on this team has been in some sort of playoff-atmosphere type game. We have veterans on the team that can tell us about it. We just have to go out there and play hard.''

The Sixers (33-46) missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, but their late-season surge and three first-round draft picks has raised optimism following an 11-30 start.

The Sixers are .500 (28-28) since trading Iverson on Dec. 19 and 24-20 since they bought out Webber's contract on Jan. 11. The Sixers also are 12-4 at home since starting 9-15.

"I'm proud of the players,'' coach Maurice Cheeks said. "The type of character players we have got us back to the point where we are today. I'm looking forward to the future.''

Notes: Hill was given a technical in the second quarter after jawing with Miller and the officials. Hill and Miller collided, and Hill thought it was intentional. ... Sixers F Shavlik Randolph, out since he fractured and dislocated his left ankle in practice on Nov. 30, said he won't return this season. Randolph held out hope he could play in the final games, but said he was only about 60 percent healthy and was considering playing in the summer league. ... Nelson, who led Saint Joseph's to a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04, visited with Hawks coach Phil Martelli. Nelson said he wasn't worried about a contract extension this summer, only about leading the Magic to the playoffs.

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