9 Mar 2009

Dwight Howard's Magic hold off Celtics

6:49 pm on 9 March 2009

The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard turned in a powerful all-round game to lift the Magic to an 86-79 victory over the Boston.

Howard scored 18 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots as the Magic charged to a seven-point first-quarter lead and extended it to 18 by the half to go 51-33 in front.

The Celtics nearly made the Magic's extended 22-point lead disappear, drawing to within three points before Howard sank a pair of free throws with 13.9 seconds left to make sure of victory.

The win tightens up the race for Eastern Conference seedings.

Orlando improved to 46-16 with the victory and have just one more loss than defending NBA champion Celtics (49-15), who wasted a 32-point contribution by Ray Allen.

The defeat gave Boston two more losses than East Conference leading Cleveland Cavaliers (49-13).