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News » Orlando fights off a woeful foe

Orlando fights off a woeful foe

Orlando fights off a woeful foe
It was a bad night for the Washington Wizards to be next on the Orlando Magic's schedule.

The Magic were back in Amway Arena on Tuesday, just two days removed from a humbling setback at Toronto. It included a biting critique from Coach Stan Van Gundy, who called out his team for a lack of mental focus.

There were moments of concern Tuesday. But the Magic were determined to respond to the message and the Wizards eventually were turned into the sacrificial lambs as Orlando rebounded in an 89-80 win.

Hedo Turkoglu got out of a shooting slump and led the Magic with 22 points. Dwight Howard had 15 points and 16 rebounds for an NBA leading 25th double-double. Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis added 14 and 12 points, respectively.

The combined efforts held off a game-high 29 by Washington's Caron Butler.

Their third win this season over the Wizards sends the Magic (27-8) into a matchup tonight with top Southeast Division rival Atlanta. It will be a test for a Magic team that has lost six of their last seven on the road against the Hawks.

"I thought our guys played really hard and with a lot of energy," Van Gundy said. "We had to survive an unbelievable third quarter by Caron. I thought we did a good job defensively. . . . Offensively. we weren't very good, but we fought hard."

The Hawks get the Magic on three days' rest, with their last outing a 103-100 win over Houston on Saturday.

Josh Smith had 29 points in the Houston win. He was also a big factor in the Hawks stealing a 99-85 road win in the Magic's season opener back on Oct. 29.

"We've been taking [opponents] best punches all year," Howard said. "We expect that. We've got to come out and deliver every night, knowing that we're going to get the team's best effort. We can't back down."

Washington hung tough early on Tuesday and held a 14-12 lead with 7:08 left in the first quarter.

A Howard dunk and a 3-pointer by Lewis gave the Magic a 17-14 lead which they continued to stretch out thanks to a chilly Washington offense.

The Wizards went nearly nine minutes without a field goal in the second quarter and missed their last 14 shots.

They also committed six turnovers during the stretch as the Magic outscored them 16-6 for the period.

Orlando led 46-30 at the half.

In his first career start, Magic rookie Courtney Lee corralled Butler in the first half. But Butler helped keep it close in the second half with 21 third quarter points.

His runner in the lane trimmed the Magic's advantage all the down to 62-56 with 2:07 left in the period. The Wizards trailed just 70-63 heading into the fourth.

Butler's jumper with 1:18 left in the game closed the gap to just 83-80, but the Wizards got no closer.

"The most important part is the win, and we got the win," Lewis said. "We're happy about that, but we've got to learn how to beat teams and put them away if we want to be one of the best teams in the league."

Perhaps still leaning on the lesson his players learned in the Toronto loss, Van Gundy refused to put too much weight on playing three straight division games in a row (Hawks come back to Orlando on Friday).

"Every game counts," Van Gundy said. "Sometimes you get late in the year and there are other implications, but not at this point. It's every night and as soon as you try to make one game more important you get in trouble."

Forward Tony Battie went as far as to liken the back-to-back games with Atlanta to a sort of mini-playoff series.

"They've given us fits the last couple of games," Battie said. "Hopefully we can pull one away from them."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: January 9, 2009


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