- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Richard Jefferson scored 24 points as the Milwaukee Bucks beat an Orlando Magic team missing Dwight Howard and two other starters 98-80 on Monday _ Orlando’s third straight loss to a subpar opponent.

Ramon Sessions added 19 points in the home finale for the Bucks, providing a late high note in what has otherwise been a disappointing season for Milwaukee.

Courtney Lee had 17 points for Orlando. Add in a potential wardrobe malfunction by Howard, who was not on the bench after halftime because he apparently was in violation of the NBA’s dress code, and it was a rough night all around for the slumping Magic.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy sat Howard to get him some rest for the postseason, and Howard spent the first half cracking up teammates and fans with his running commentary from the end of the bench. But he disappeared after halftime.

Howard wasn’t wearing a suit Monday night _ but he wasn’t exactly slumming it, either, sporting a sweater and dress shirt, dress pants and sparkling diamond-studded watch.

They could have used him in a uniform.

Milwaukee led 50-43 at halftime, and Jefferson hit a pair of 3-pointers and another shot for an 8-2 spurt in the first three minutes after halftime to put Milwaukee up 58-44. Jefferson later converted a three-point play near the end of the quarter, and Milwaukee went into the fourth quarter leading 71-60.

Adonal Foyle powered a 6-0 run to begin the fourth period, hitting shots on back-to-back possessions and then grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds to set up a running jumper by Lee. That cut the Bucks’ lead to 71-66 with 10:06 remaining.

But Milwaukee answered with a 7-2 run of their own, getting a 3-pointer by Jefferson and a pair of shots by Malik Allen. Orlando didn’t mount a serious challenge the rest of the way.

Orlando was coming off losses to New York and New Jersey, giving up 100-plus points to a pair of non-playoff teams.

Now locked into the No. 3 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, Orlando was without starters Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis because of nagging injuries. So Van Gundy figured it was a good time to rest Howard as well.

Lewis has right knee tendinitis and Turkoglu has a sprained left ankle. Van Gundy said he hopes to have his starters back for Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Charlotte.

Milwaukee came into this season expecting improvement and stayed in playoff contention even after season-ending injuries to Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut. But the Bucks ran out of steam in the last month and will finish the season at Indiana on Wednesday.

The Bucks were short-handed on Monday, too _ even more so than usual. Guard Luke Ridnour missed the game after his wife gave birth to a boy, Traden Lukas, earlier in the day.

So the Magic were without Howard, and the Bucks were without Ridnour. Fair tradeoff?

“Nothing against Luke Ridnour, but I’ll take that trade,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said before the game.

Notes: Bucks C Francisco Elson returned after sitting out four games with a strained right hip flexor. … Magic G J.J. Redick also sat out with back spasms. … Marquette basketball coach Buzz Williams attended Monday’s game.

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