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Howard's 20-20 helps Magic eliminate Raptors

Apr 29, 2008 - 4:12 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard proved why he earned the nickname "Superman".

Howard recorded his third 20-20 performance of the series to help the Orlando Magic post a 102-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors and capture their Eastern Conference first-round series 4-1 on Monday.

The 23-year-old Howard has carried Orlando into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign, when Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway roamed the court.

"It feels great," said Howard when asked about winning his first career playoff series. "We have worked extremely hard this year and to finally get over the hump and out of the first round means a lot to us."

Howard finished with 21 points, 21 rebounds - 10 offensive - and three blocks. He became the fifth player in the last 30 years to record consecutive 20-20 outings in the playoffs, doing so in Games One and Two. "It's incredible," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I think people pointed out after Game One how rare it is for someone to have 20-20 games in the playoffs, and he gets three in a five game series. He's been incredible."

"(Howard's) a phenom," Toronto forward Chris Bosh said. "He's probably the best center in the league. He is always on the offensive boards. He's always on the defensive boards. He's just always a threat."

Orlando will play the winner of the Detroit Pistons-Philadelphia 76ers series in the next round. The Pistons and Sixers are tied 2-2 heading into their Game Five matchup on Tuesday.

Chris Bosh's nifty hook shot over Howard brought the Raptors with 84-82 at the 6:01 mark. But the Magic wouldn't allow them to get any closer as Keith Bogans nailed two 3-pointers during an 11-2 run to create a 95-84 lead with 2:30 left.

Bogans, who finished with 11 points on just 4-of-11 shots. "He was struggling a little bit early on," said Magic guard Jameer Nelson, who scored 19 points. "I told him you have been shooting your shots all season so there's no reason to stop. He stepped up big in the fourth quarter."

After trailing by one-point at halftime, Orlando regrouped in the third quarter to take the lead for good when Hedo Turkoglu's jumper sparked a 14-6 run to close out the period, forging a 74-68 lead heading into the fourth.

Earlier Monday, Turkoglu became the fourth player in franchise history to be honored with the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. He averaged 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists, posting career bests in each category.

T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon were the stars of the first half for the Raptors, who shot 44 percent (19-of-43) from the field en route to a 50-49 lead at intermission. The duo had 22 points and six assists combined.

"I thought our point guards (Nelson and Keyon Dooling) stepped up defensively in the second half," Van Gundy said. "We got on them a little bit at halftime. (Ford and Calderon) had 22 points at half and only four points in the second half."

The 1-2 punch of Ford and Calderon were also the key in Toronto's lone win in the series, combining for 39 points and 16 assists in a 14-point win in Game Three at home.

Nelson scored 19 points and Rashard Lewis had 18 points and 13 rebounds for Orlando, which had six players finish in double figures.

Bosh had 16 points and nine boards and Carlos Delfino came off the bench to score 14 for Toronto, which dominated on the glass, 55-37.

"You have to hand it to them, they played a better series," Bosh said. "They executed on offense and on defense better than we did. I can't sit here and bark and protest that the better team didn't win. That's pretty obvious. They beat us pretty good four games to one."

"They beat us on the boards," Toronto Coach Sam Mitchell. "They've got a guy in the middle (Howard) who cleans up a lot of their misses. It's hard to ask much more of our big guys when they are battling this guy ... with his size and strength, quickness and athleticism."

    TORONTO 92

    Apr 28 9:55 PM
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    Raptors 82, Magic 84  4th - 6:00Apr 28 9:37 PM

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    Raptors vs. MagicApr 28 6:54 AM