Final - OT
  for this game

Howard, Magic outlast Bobcats in OT

Feb 18, 2009 - 5:26 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Dwight Howard wasn't happy about losing his title in the Slam Dunk Contest. He decided to take out his frustrations on the Charlotte Bobcats.

The All-Star center posted a career-high 45 points to go with 19 boards and eight blocks in his return from Phoenix's weekend festivities, but his Orlando Magic needed an extra period to escape the Charlotte Bobcats with a 107-102 victory Tuesday night.

"Dwight put us on his back," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "His will, his drive, his intensity kept lifting people up. ... This is the best I've seen him play."

"I played extremely hard tonight," Howard said. "I don't think that's my best game. I've got better."

In their first game of the season's abbreviated "second half," the Magic continued to struggle without injured All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson, who is out for the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder.

"I think for me, I have to step up now that Jameer is out," Howard said. "I have to be that leader and once my teammates see that I'm bringing it every night, they're going to bring it. I have to be the one to start things on both ends."

After a night-long struggle for most of Orlando's offense, J.J. Redick's 3-pointer with four seconds left in regulation gave the team a bit of a spark as it held on.

"I want to take shots like that," Redick said. "This is the biggest shot I've made in the NBA. As soon as I shot it, I knew it was in."

The Magic staged an 8-0 run in the overtime period to take a six-point lead, as Howard and Hedo Turkoglu scored four points apiece in the spurt. The Bobcats made it close, as recent acquisition Vladimir Radmanovic buried a three with 10 seconds left in OT. But Redick and Courtney Lee closed the game out at the foul line.

"I just know that for us to win, all of us had to keep fighting," Howard said. "My teammates did a great job and kept fighting the whole game. We just willed our way to win. They found me in great positions to score. I kept telling them we've got to keep fighting, this is our game and that's what we did."

The Bobcats were given a golden opportunity to make it a two-possession ballgame with less than 10 seconds to play.

After Lewis misfired from short range with 15 seconds left, the Bobcats grabbed the rebound and called timeout. But Turkoglu jumped the gun on the inevitable intentional foul, getting whistled before the ball was inbounded - giving Charlotte an extra free throw and the ball.

Raja Bell connected on the first and was immediately fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass. But Bell, a 90 percent foul shooter since being acquired by the Bobcats earlier this season, missed the second one to keep the Magic within striking distance.

It was Redick who came through this time, curling around to the left wing and burying the game-tying shot - his second 3-pointer of the night. Raymond Felton's last-second heave moments later was well off, forcing the extra session.

"I felt we did some really good things and gave ourselves a shot to win it," Bell said. "If I make that free throw, it is a four-point game and that three does not send it into overtime."

Howard knocked down four free throws in the overtime period to help close out the Bobcats and continued to control the middle on the defensive side despite playing with five fouls. He finished 16-of-23 from the field and an impressive 13-of-18 from the free-throw line, while Turkoglu and All-Star forward Rashard Lewis combined to shoot just 8-of-27 from the floor while the Magic continue to try to survive without stability in the backcourt.

Nelson's injury handed the point-guard reins over to Anthony Johnson, but the high-powered Orlando attack hasn't been nearly as fluid in the hands of the veteran journeyman. He had five points and three assists in this one as the Magic got virtually nothing from their backcourt.

"Me, Hedo and Rashard need to pick it up on both ends of the court (in Nelson's absence)," Howard said. "Our margin of error is one percent for the rest of the way."

Still, Orlando hit the shots it needed to, going 9-of-24 from the arc and 28-of-37 from the line.

Felton led six Bobcats in double figures with 22 points, 10 boards and five assists, while Emeka Okafor and Boris Diaw added 14 points apiece.

"We had a chance," Charlotte coach Larry Brown said. "We missed a big free throw. Redick hit a great shot, a big three to tie it up. And then they controlled the overtime early. As a result, that's the game."