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Howard's 30 points help Magic crush Bulls

Apr 10, 2008 - 4:39 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- All-Star Dwight Howard helped put the Orlando Magic on the precipice of the half-century mark.

Howard scored 30 points and hauled in 14 rebounds as the Magic routed the Chicago Bulls, 115-83, on Wednesday.

Rashard Lewis scored 21 points and reserve Carlos Arroyo scored 13 for Orlando (49-29), which is one victory shy of reaching the 50-win mark for the first time since 1995-96.

"There's always a level of respect in this league for 50-win teams," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "It sort of lifts you out of the realm of mediocrity when they say they're a 50-win team. I think our guys quite honestly want that."

Howard, who collected his 67th double-double, is one away from tying Shaquille O'Neal for the the most in that category in team history. O'Neal accomplished that feat in 1992-93.

What Howard admittedly wanted Wednesday was to shake off the ill effects of the past two games in which he accounted for a combined 17 points. He almost accomplished that in one quarter Wednesday.

"I didn't think I brought myself mentally and physically in those (past two) games," Howard said. "So, I just wanted to come out and give a great effort on both ends. The main thing we did tonight was play with a lot of energy. And that's what we have to do coming into the playoffs."

With the scored tied at 26-26 after the first quarter, Howard took control in the next period.

A first-time All-Star this season, Howard had 16 points and seven rebounds in the second as the Magic took a 62-49 advantage at the break. Howard, who connected on 12-of-15 from the floor, helped propel Orlando to 64 percent shooting (14-of-22) in the quarter, thanks to him hitting all seven of his field goal attempts.

Howard scored 11 in a 13-0 run that lifted Orlando to a 51-36 advantage.

"Dwight was a beast," said Bulls center Joakim Noah, one of the Chicago frontcourt men who tried to slow Howard. "Nobody I've ever seen has so much size and so much bounce."

"Joakim tried to battle him, but you could see the obvious, physical difference," Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. "I put (rookie) Aaron (Gray) out there, and he was a little too quick for him. And we tried Tyrus (Thomas) on him, and he was again a little too physical."

After Chicago cut its deficit to 78-70 on a pair of foul shots by Luol Deng with 1:51 left in the third period, Orlando used a 16-5 spurt over the first 4:17 of the fourth to make it 97-75.

Howard was a part of that final run, but Van Gundy noted something he saw from Howard throughout the game.

"I think Dwight really needs to understand how people are going to come after him and how hard he has to work to get the ball in spots where he can be effective," Van Gundy said. "It's not all on him, but he's got to work harder and he did that tonight."

Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists for the Magic, who shot 51 percent (45-of-89) and snapped a two-game losing streak here.

Kirk Hinrich scored 19 points and reserves Ben Gordon and Gray each scored 13 for Chicago, which shot 41 percent (34-of-83) and has dropped three straight and four of five.

Thomas had 10 points and six rebounds for the Bulls, who also suffered their third straight defeat to the Magic this season.

"I just think they're a better team," Gordon said. "We got within 10 points and were fighting hard, but they made another run and put the game out of reach."

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