for this game

Howard helps Magic blow out Wizards

Mar 6, 2008 - 4:41 AM By Tim Hipps PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- All-Star Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic marched closer to a division title.

Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Magic crushed the Washington Wizards, 122-92, on Wednesday.

The victory was the Magic's 22nd on the road this season, one shy of the franchise record set in 1995-96 when Shaquille O'Neal was manning the middle.

"We're just really trying to focus on how to get better for the playoffs," Howard said. "It was an easy game so we were trying to work on something that's going to get us ready for it.

"We're trying to catch Detroit. To catch them, we've got to be almost perfect, which is almost impossible, but we're still going to try."

Rashard Lewis, Maurice Evans and reserve Keith Bogans each scored 17 points for Orlando, which has won three straight and six of seven overall.

"Bogans and Evans each had 17 points, so we got 34 out of the (shooting guard) position," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They were trying to trap Hedo (Turkoglu) on his pick-and-rolls and trying to come at Dwight with two guys, so there were people open.

"Our ball movement was good, and we've got a lot of guys who can shoot the ball. We actually like it when we see people trapping guys and double-teaming guys because we've got a lot of good spot-up shooters, so it becomes easy for us at that point."

The Magic (40-23), who also have won three in a row from the Wizards (29-31), increased their lead to 9 1/2 games over Washington in the Southeast Division with just 19 games remaining for Orlando. The win was their largest margin of victory this season.

"We feel comfortable in the position we're in but, at the same time, in the whole Eastern Conference, we know there are teams behind us coming to try to get that third spot," Lewis said. "Our focus is to continue to win games and try to keep that cushion so we can maintain that third position.

"You never know what can happen. As long as we take care of our business, try to stay away from the team behind us, maybe we might win a lot more ballgames then possibly catch Detroit. But the main focus is to stay in that third spot."

The Magic took control of the game before Howard took the team lead in scoring. Lewis scored 10 in the initial quarter and Bogans added 12 off the bench in the second for Orlando, which led by 14 after the first, 15 at halftime and 22 to begin the final period.

"It was a start that we needed to get off to because we know they're a good team that was missing some key guys, but their young guys play with a lot of energy," Lewis said. "We were able to hit some big threes in the first quarter that kind of opened it up for Dwight. Then, he kind of took off from there."

Howard, who connected on 7-of-12 from the floor, had eight at the break before scoring six of the Magic's first eight points in the third.

"I felt the third quarter sort of put it away, and Dwight had a big part of that," Van Gundy said.

"You've got to give a lot of credit to Orlando," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "They really played well. They took it to us. They were the aggressors, and we just couldn't compete physically. We had some mental breakdowns, and just didn't play well tonight. They played very well after playing a game (Tuesday)."

Turkoglu also scored 12 for the Magic, who shot 56 percent (46-of-82).

"We have a lot of good shooters, so when you get double-teamed, you just pass it and keep spreading the floor," Turkoglu said. "We're just spreading the floor and Dwight just keeps rolling to the rim. We just throw it up and he'll catch anything above the rim.

"I was surprised they double-teamed all night long, but it still worked for us and we won."

Antawn Jamison scored 19 points and DeShawn Stevenson scored 17 for the Wizards, who shot 43 percent (35-of-82) and failed in their bid to reach the .500 mark.

"This is just one of those games that we didn't play well at all," Jamison said. "They played phenomenally well. You've got to give them credit for coming out and setting the tone on both ends of the floor.

"For us, I am disappointed that we didn't play better. As a team, we know we can play better than we did tonight. We've still got two more games against those guys on the road and, hopefully, we can have a better showing then."

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