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Howard's double-double leads Magic past Bulls

Nov 2, 2006 - 3:08 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard helped the Orlando Magic open their season in style.

Howard scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Magic used a quick start to defeat the Chicago Bulls, 109-94.

Howard, who was second in the NBA in rebounding last season and a member of Team USA over the summer, shot 9-for-12 from the field and 9-of-10 from the line. He shot less than 60 percent from the line a season ago.

"We want to try to establish Dwight's presence at the post and see how the teams are going to try and defend him," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "Our guys did a fantastic job of finding him all night whether it was deep in the paint or at the rim in transition. When you get him the ball deep in the paint, it's almost impossible to double team him.

"There are just not a lot of guys who can take him one-on-one in that situation. He made good quick moves and really asserted himself right from the beginning."

The Magic opened the game on a 12-3 run and never looked back as Howard and Grant Hill combined for 10 points. Orlando never really cooled off, shooting 59 percent (35-for-59).

"We shot well tonight and got some fast breaks ... points in the paint ... which makes it easier but we just have to continue to work hard on our offense execution," Grant Hill said.

Coming off a convincing 42-point win over defending champion Miami on Tuesday, Chicago missed eight of its first nine shots and finished 45 percent (37-of-82).

"This is our fourth back-to-back (including preseason) and we have played poorly in all four second games," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We've got a lot of back-to-backs this year and if that's going to be our excuse, this isn't going to be a very good team."

The Bulls got within 87-76 with 9:55 to go before Howard dunked and Keyon Dooling hit a 3-pointer, helping the Magic pull away for good.

"It just seemed like we didn't have the bounce in our step like we did last night," Kirk Hinrich said. "Just out of the gate, our defense was bad and a few stretches of turnovers led to a big deficit at halftime. I thought we played hard, but they just had more energy. Many times that is the difference in the game."

Ben Gordon scored 24 points on 11-of-21 shooting for Chicago, which had won its last five visits to Orlando.

Chicago shot just 58 percent from the free throw line (14-for-24). They shot 74 percent during the 2005-06 season.

The Magic are now 12-6 in their home openers all-time.

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