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Magic rebound from blowout loss with rout of Timberwolves

Dec 4, 2008 - 3:51 AM By Zach Chalifour PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- The Orlando Magic proved Wednesday that they can win with defense.

In doing so, they recovered from their most lopsided defeat of the season with a decisive 100-89 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Dwight Howard led the home team on both sides of the ball, finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds to go along with six blocks and three steals that spearheaded Orlando's defensive effort.

Despite managing just 65 field-goal attempts to Minnesota's 87, the Magic's swarming defense held the Timberwolves to just 41 percent shooting from the field while the offense hit its shots at a 57-percent clip. The Southeast Division-leading Magic were coming off a 19-point loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday.

"We came back strong," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't rebound well and turned the ball over too much, but our offense had another good night and the defense was great."

The T-Wolves had no answer for Orlando's frontcourt, as forwards Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu supplemented Howard's typically dominant play with big showings of their own. Lewis led all scorers with 23 points and buried four 3-pointers, while Turkoglu added 22 on 10-of-16 shooting.

But the Magic's spark on the offensive side of the ball was rookie Courtney Lee, who finished with a career-high 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting.

"It was a great night for the rookie, playing very aggressive all night," Van Gundy said. "We don't want to expect too much too soon, but he played great on both offense and defense and kept them at bay."

Lee, in the midst of constant jeering from his teammates in the locker room after the first big-time performance in his young NBA career, couldn't contain a huge smile as he spoke after the game.

"It felt great tonight to build my confidence and help the team with all the injuries," Lee said. "I'm definitely getting more confident in making more plays and getting good shots off."

Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson has missed the last five games with a right hip flexor, while swingman Mickael Pietrus is out three to five weeks with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

The teams traded blows in a first half that saw six lead changes and no single lead of more than eight points.

The Magic finally pulled away with a 21-6 run in the final 8:03 of the third quarter. After the T-Wolves cut their deficit to 44-42, the Magic scored 11 of the next 13 points, as Lewis and Turkoglu both connected from the arc. Later in the quarter, Turkoglu capped a 9-0 surge with a turnaround jumper to extend the lead to 64-46. From there, the rout was on, as the Magic had no problem protecting the 20-point edge they carried into the final frame.

Until a late 39-point surge in the final quarter, Minnesota was on pace to put forth their worst offensive performance of the season, coming up with just 50 points on 33 percent shooting (22-of-66) through the first three quarters.

But the late run was too little, too late for the Timberwolves, as the Magic continually responded with big shots of their own.

"We had great energy, but just struggled putting the ball in the basket. I thought we got great looks early, we just couldn't put it in," Minnesota coach Randy Wittman said. "It wasn't until late that we started driving to the basket, and that's where we've got to take the next step offensively to get shots to go down."

Al Jefferson led the Timberwolves with 19 points and rookie forward Kevin Love added 16 and 12 boards off the bench.

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