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Howard saves the day as Magic hold off Jazz

Mar 15, 2007 - 4:46 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard was a major reason the Orlando Magic built a big lead against the Utah Jazz and he was the sole reason they kept it.

Howard recorded a double-double and made a number of key plays down the stretch to lead the Magic to a 101-90 victory over the Jazz.

Howard had 31 points and 15 rebounds and gave Orlando what seemed like a comfortable 90-68 lead with 8:30 to play with a pair of free throws.

"I thought we did a great job as a team moving the ball," Howard said. "We also played hard and ran the floor. That's something we have been talking about, running the floor and getting easy baskets. We did a great job of that tonight."

Trailing, 92-72, Utah started to battle back. The Jazz went on a 17-0 run, capped by a banked 3-pointer by Mehmet Okur, to make it 92-88 with 2:43 to go. Then Howard stepped in.

He stopped the run with a layup and grabbed a rebound off a missed 3-pointer by Okur. Howard then took a feed from Jameer Nelson for another layup before blocking a shot by Carlos Boozer.

"My teammates found me in the right spots. I just had a chance to catch and shoot," Howard said. "My teammates did a good job of making sure that I got easy baskets. Our guys were hitting shots on the perimeter and Hedo (Turkoglu) drove the ball well tonight and got some easy baskets."

"We haven't been able to beat Howard at all," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "He just annihilates us and gave us something we couldn't deal with."

Turkoglu had 22 points and Grant Hill added 12 for the Magic (30-36), who are tied with Indiana and New York for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Everybody stepped up and did something great for us tonight," Howard said. "We've got to have it to finish the season on the right note. If we play like we did tonight, we should make the playoffs."

"This is a quality win over a quality team, something we obviously needed right now," Orlando coach Brian Hill said. "I just can't say enough about their effort. They really forced Utah into a lot of mistakes that are very atypical to a Utah Jazz team."

Boozer scored 29 points and Okur added 21 for Utah, which is 0-2 on its current four-game road trip.

Howard came through late but Utah was its won worst enemy at times, committing 22 turnovers that led to 27 points for Orlando. The Jazz were fortunate to be down only 42-40 at the break as they had 16 turnovers in the first half.

"The turnovers really killed us, especially in the first half," Sloan said. "We ended up with 22 and we had, at halftime, 16 or 17. It put us in a deep hole. Finally we got some guys out there at the end where it looked like we might have a chance but we couldn't put enough pressure on them to win."

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    UTAH 90

    Mar 14 9:24 PM

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    UTAH 64

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    Mar 14 7:32 PM