ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — With 10 games left in the regular season, the Orlando Magic entered Friday night wanting nothing more than to keep showing signs of a team ready for the postseason.
A 95-85 victory over the ailing New Jersey Nets kept the Magic’s momentum going. They still aren’t quite where they want to be, but they may be slowly getting closer.
Dwight Howard had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu added 20 points and 13 assists to help the Magic hold off the Nets 95-85 on Friday night. Orlando won its fifth straight and completed a 4-0 season sweep of New Jersey. The Magic have also won 14 of their last 17 meetings overall against the Nets.
The Magic led by 10 at the half before giving up the lead early in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. They rallied and used a 13-0 run to put the game away. Turkoglu, who has scored at least 15 points in four of his last five games, said he is starting to find a late-season groove.
“Yeah, (Magic coach Stan Van Gundy) was telling me that before I was just trying to pass the ball first. I wasn’t real aggressive,” Turkoglu said. “Right now, I’m just trying to turn the corner.”
Anthony Morrow had 19 points for the Nets, while Jordan Farmar added 15 points and 16 assists. New Jersey lost for the fifth time in six games. The pair led six Nets players in double figures.
“That’s what really great playoff teams do,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said of the Magic’s decisive fourth-quarter run. “Perennial playoff teams and teams that are led by Howard … put a lot of pressure on our defense. We couldn’t score anymore.
“We had quite a few guys in double figures, but just couldn’t get over the hump.”
In decisive wins earlier this week over Cleveland and New York, the Magic did all the little things to please Van Gundy. They reduced turnovers, played cohesive team defense and pounded the ball inside to Howard.
Howard even shot over 80 percent from the free-throw line, while doing his usual damage scoring and rebounding underneath.
Early on, though, they took a few strides backward defensively and allowed a Nets team playing without starting point guard Deron Williams to stay close.
Also banged up itself entering Friday, Orlando may have added its point guard to the list. Starter Jameer Nelson left in the second quarter with a sprained knee after landing awkwardly while taking a charge. He didn’t return and is day-to-day.
Van Gundy said he wasn’t too pleased with his team’s defense, but thought they did the best they could dealing with not only Nelson’s injury, but the absence of reserves J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson, who both were inactive Friday.
Chris Duhon and Gilbert Arenas filled in the gaps. Arenas struggled, going 1 for 12 from the field. Duhon was just 2 for 7, but hit a big 3-pointer late to help seal the win.
“Our rotation right now on the perimeter — guys are having to play big minutes,” Van Gundy said. “I just thought we were a little out of sorts. I wasn’t real happy with the way we guarded or anything, but I’m not overly concerned. I think we just played a bad third quarter and didn’t defend on the perimeter well. But those kind of nights happen.”
The Nets outscored the Magic 25-13 in the third quarter and trailed by just three — 66-63 — entering the fourth.
A 3-pointer by Sasha Vujacic in the opening minutes of the final period gave the Nets a 68-66 lead with 10:10 to play. But Ryan Anderson’s 3-pointer on the Magic’s next possession put them back up by a point and started a 13-0 run that made it 79-68 with 5:50 remaining.
The Nets trimmed the lead to 81-76 with 3:18 left. After a basket by Morrow made it 83-78 a few trips later, New Jersey began putting Howard on the foul line before the 2-minute mark. Howard hit two of his next four attempts and Duhon’s 3 off a rebound pushed the Magic’s lead back to 88-80 and helped put the game away.
Though Van Gundy wasn’t too excited about his team’s defense in the second half, there were some signs of improvement there. The Magic set a franchise-record for fewest fouls in a game, committing just seven. The previous low was nine, set in 1998 against Boston. The Nets also had just six free-throw attempts.
“Obviously that third quarter we didn’t play well at all,” Duhon said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well, we let them creep back in the game. For us to be able to overcome all of that and get stops when we needed to get stops says something about us — that we’re growing as a team and we’re making the proper steps for us to make a championship run.”
Notes: Redick (lower abdominal strain) was inactive for the eighth straight game. He was injured March 11 and had been making progress, but Van Gundy said he reaggravated it Thursday during a workout. “It’s not anything that the MRI shows will need surgery or anything. It’s just a matter of him taking the time,” Van Gundy said, adding the team hopes to have Redick back by April 1. … Richardson was out with back spasms. … Johnson said Williams will likely miss at least two more games with a strained tendon in his right wrist. He is averaging 15 points and 13 assists with the Nets since being traded from Utah last month. … Magic executive Pat Williams, who announced he had been diagnosed with blood disease last month, was in attendance.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)