Dwight Howard leads the way as Magic top Cavaliers 101-95

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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Shaquille O'Neal has taken offence to Dwight Howard being dubbed Superman in recent weeks, but the Magic's big man lived up to the billing on Sunday.
Howard had 22 points and 16 rebounds in a bruising battle with O'Neal as Orlando beat Cleveland 101-95 to hand the Cavaliers their first three-game losing streak in two years.
"He's a big load," Howard said of O'Neil. "You just got to get in there and fight him. You got to get out there and wrestle with him. You got to make him work."
They both did plenty of that.
Howard was 8-for-13 shooting and added four blocks, and Vince Carter had eight of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic beat Cleveland for the first time this season.
O'Neal made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points, and LeBron James had 33 points and nine rebounds for the Cavaliers, who were eliminated by Orlando in last year's Eastern Conference finals.
"Dwight is one of the only true big men left. I'm sure he doesn't mind a little bit of physicality," said O'Neal, who avoided any verbal jabs at Howard after this one. "I darn sure don't mind it. Two big, strong guys. Old ball, young ball going at it. Fun game to watch."
Stayed tuned. Might be plenty more matchups this season.
Although the Cavaliers' losing skid - all since acquiring Antawn Jamison from Washington - comes on the heels of a 13-game winning streak, they still lead Orlando by five games. And with the Magic starting to play their best basketball, a conference finals rematch might be in store.
"We play the way we're playing, they play the way they're playing, we'll eventually meet," Howard said.
Elsewhere in the NBA it was: Denver 114 Boston 105; Detroit 109 San Antonio 101 (OT); Memphis 104 New Jersey 94; Memphis 109 Minnesota 107; New Orleans 102 Houston 94; Golden State 108 Atlanta 104; Phoenix 104 Sacramento 88; and Utah 93 Portland 89 (OT).
At Orlando, Fla., the hoopla surrounding the Howard-Shaq squabble over the Superman nickname finally lived up to the billing, and for a February game it sure felt like June.
Carter made a two-handed dunk over heavy traffic, and followed that with a layup over Jamison, pumping his fist to the crowd in celebration. Jameer Nelson came back with a three-pointer to put the Magic ahead 96-88 with about two minutes left.
O'Neal tipped in a missed shot, and Anthony Parker made a three-pointer to trim the deficit to three. But after James missed a three-pointer on Cleveland's next possession, Rashard Lewis made a three - from the same spot where he sent the Game 6 clincher into overtime last year - with 20.1 seconds remaining to seal the Magic's win.
Jamison, acquired from Washington earlier this week, had 19 points - after starting his Cleveland career 0-for-12 - but still doesn't know what it feels like to win with his new team.
"I think Antawn is really going to benefit us, we are just going through a little transition period right now trying to figure out lineups and figuring out certain sets," James said.
Until the last few minutes, though, it was Superman versus Superman.
O'Neal has been known as the comic book superhero for most of his 17-year NBA career, and he had taken exception with Howard getting the same nickname. It didn't help that Howard has erased much of O'Neal's shadow in Orlando - where he spent four years in the mid-90s - and has restored the Magic to prominence.
"I am not concerned with that," said O'Neal, who has called Howard an "impostor" among other things. "When I am done playing, I will have four, five or six (titles). I am not concerned with useless titles."
He'll also be remembered for putting on quite a show.
O'Neal grabbed a rebound and caught Howard under the basket, hammering a powerful one-handed dunk over the young centre in the opening quarter. Shaq added a put-back dunk, an alley-oop tip and a three-point play over Howard all before the half.
At the other end of the floor, Howard used his youth and agility to wiggle around O'Neal almost at will, slicing through the paint for layups and hook shots and making the elder centre sprint down the court. Howard also banked a jumpshot from the wing and his defensive presence helped Orlando go ahead 46-35 late in the second quarter.
"I don't think he smiled tonight so that should make everybody happy," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, referring to how some perceive Howard as a happy-go-luck centre. "He's playing as well as anybody in the league."
And suddenly, so are the Magic.
"Sometimes people do forget that we're the defending Eastern Conference champions," Lewis said. "That's OK. We just got to keep playing hard, because we know we might see them again."
Nuggets 114 Celtics 105
At Denver, J.R. Smith scored 16 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets recovered to get the win after blowing an early 20-point lead.
Chauncey Billups had 26 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23 for the Nuggets, who avoided back-to-back losses for the first time since late December with the victory over the NBA's top road team.
Pistons 109 Spurs 101 (OT)
At Auburn Hills, Mich., Richard Hamilton scored 27 points and Rodney Stuckey added 20 and Detroit held on for the win after trailing to start overtime.
Manu Ginobili's layup tied the game 93-93 with 27.5 seconds left, and the Pistons missed two game-winning shots at the end of regulation.
Grizzlies 104 Nets 94
At East Rutherford, N.J., Rudy Gay scored 29 points and Memphis added another exclamation point to a frustrating season for the Nets, rallying from an 18-point first-half deficit for the win.
O.J. Mayo scored 10 of his 24 points in a 17-point run that bridged the third and fourth quarters and put the Grizzlies ahead for good, adding to the woes of the Nets (5-51).
Thunder 109 Timberwolves 107
At Minneapolis, Kevin Durant scored 32 points to extend his streak of games with at least 25 points to 28 games and Russell Westbrook had a triple-double to lead Oklahoma City to its ninth straight win.
Westbrook had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists and Jeff Green added 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who have the longest active winning streak in the NBA.
Hornets 102 Rockets 94
At New Orleans, David West scored 27 points, including four in the final 2 minutes, to lift the Hornets to the win.
Darren Collison added 26 points for New Orleans, the fifth straight game he's had 24 or more.
Warriors 108 Hawks 104
At Oakland, Calif., Stephen Curry scored 32 points and made the go-ahead free throw in the final minute after a technical foul on Jamal Crawford to help Golden State edge Atlanta.
Monta Ellis scored 26 for the Warriors, who got their first win against a team with a winning record since beating Boston on Dec. 28.
Suns 104 Kings 88
At Phoenix, Jason Richardson scored 26 points, Amare Stoudemire had 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Victoria's Steve Nash had 17 assists as Phoenix completed a season series sweep of Sacramento.
Newly acquired Carl Landry led Sacramento with 18 points. Beno Udrih had 17 and Donte Greene and rookie Tyreke Evans each scored 16 for the Kings.
Jazz 93 Trail Blazers 89 (OT)
At Portland, Ore., Carlos Boozer scored on an offensive putback at the end of regulation to force overtime, then gave Utah its first lead since the opening minutes, and Utah rallied from down 25 in the third quarter to stun the Trail Blazers.
Boozer had 22 points and a career-high 23 rebounds for the Jazz, who trailed 64-39 with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Organizations: NBA, Hornets, Kings Trail Blazers

Geographic location: Orlando, Cleveland, Washington Golden Orlando, Fla. New Orleans Denver Phoenix Sacramento Utah Auburn Hills Detroit East Rutherford, N.J. Memphis Minneapolis Oklahoma City Oakland Atlanta Boston Victoria Portland, Ore.

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