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Howard leads Magic to victory, 2-1 series lead over Celtics

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The Sports Network
5/9/2009 12:45:49 AM
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Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Rashard Lewis finished with a game-high 28 points to help the Orlando Magic defeat the Boston Celtics, 117-96, in Game 3 of the teams' Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 24 points, as the Magic took a 2-1 lead in the best-of- seven series, which continues Sunday back in Orlando.

The Magic shot 59 percent in the win, a playoff franchise high, thanks in part to a 7-for-8 effort from Dwight Howard, who battled foul trouble but ended with 17 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks.

"I think our whole team stepped up our level of defensive intensity. And like I told you guys last game, it starts with me," Howard said. "And I have to do that every night if we are to be successful, especially against a good team like Boston."

Orlando rookie guard Courtney Lee returned to his team's rotation after missing the first two games of the series with a fractured sinus and scored 11 points in a little more than 32 minutes off the bench.

The Celtics tumbled to the loss after shooting only 43 percent. Paul Pierce paced Boston with 27 points, most of which came through a 14-for-14 effort at the free throw line.

Ray Allen made just 3-of-13 field goals and finished with eight points, while Rajon Rondo totaled 15 points on 7-of-17 shooting.

"We struggled offensively and didn't get some calls to go our way," Rondo said. "We had a lot of good looks in the first quarter and were still down four. Ray had a lot of wide open shots. I missed a lot of floaters that I should have made."

Eddie House provided a boost off the bench for the Celtics, making three three-pointers and ending with 15 points. However, Boston struggled to maintain an inside game without All-Star forward Kevin Garnett, who is expected to miss the entire series with strained ligaments in his right knee. Boston's starting center Kendrick Perkins and forward Glen Davis combined to score 17 points.

While Lee returned, Orlando played without guard Rafer Alston, who was suspended for Friday's contest after swinging and hitting House's head in Game 2 of this series.

However, the Magic fared well with their revamped lineup and Anthony Johnson starting at point, as they jumped out to a 12-4 lead while relying on points in the paint. But the Celtics stayed close, and Rondo's jumper in the waning seconds got Boston within 22-18 going to the second.

"He stepped his game (up) big tonight with Rafer being out," Lewis said of Johnson. "He got us started in the first quarter. Played great for us in the first half, got 12 points in the first half and really took the lane when he was open and got the offense going."

Shortly into the new quarter Lee's jumper capped a six-point burst that gave Orlando a 32-22 advantage, and the Magic played in front the remainder of the half. Tyronn Lue's jumper just before the buzzer made it a 53-41 game at intermission.

The teams traded points to begin the third quarter, which was marked by some stellar play by Howard. Orlando's big man scored seven of his team's first 10 points and was active at both ends of the court, particularly during one sequence.

Davis got the ball inside and tried a hook shot, which Howard blocked. Howard got the ball on the play and on the other end, raced to the glass to tip in J.J. Redick's three-point miss, pushing Orlando's lead to 63-47 with 8 1/2 minutes to go.

"He blocks shots and we are very aware of that," Pierce said of Howard. "We have to know when we go into the middle that we need to take the ball strong or find the open man when he steps up. He has been doing that the whole series, trying to block shots."

Seven consecutive Magic points a few minutes later made it a 72-52 game, and Orlando looked like it would cruise to the end of the stanza.

But Boston ended the third quarter on a 12-2 stretch, with Howard on the bench, to get back in the game. Pierce poured in six points, and Rondo's breakaway dunk off a steal capped the run to cut the Celtics' deficit to 78-69.

Pierce began the fourth with a pair of foul shots to get Boston within seven, but Turkoglu countered with a jumper to prevent the Celtics from making it a two-possession game.

A minute later, the Magic ran off five consecutive free throws to get their lead back to double-digits, at 88-75. Even though Howard picked up his fifth foul in that sequence, Boston didn't come close the rest of the way.

Near the midway point of the final stanza, Lewis drained a three-pointer and Lee followed with another. Redick added two free throws to make it a 103-83 game, and the Magic cruised to the finish.

Game Notes

The Magic made 9-of-18 three-pointers and sank 30-of-36 free throws...The Celtics shot just 5-for-18 from beyond the arc and made 23-of-26 from the foul line...Orlando had 23 fast-break points, compared to 10 for Boston...Johnson finished with 13 points for the Magic, while Perkins had 10 for the Celtics. Perkins was also assessed a flagrant foul with 10:15 left in the fourth quarter...Orlando's point total was its highest in a playoff game since a 121-116 overtime win over Milwaukee on April 28, 2001.

Howard blocks Pierce (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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