- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

ATLANTA (AP) - Dwight Howard scored 21 points and tied a season high with 23 rebounds, helping the Orlando Magic beat the Atlanta Hawks 88-82 on Saturday night to pull within a half-game of tying for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Howard’s performance marked the ninth time this season, and 23rd of his five-year career, that he’s had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game.

Coming off a blowout home victory over East-leading Cleveland on Friday, the Magic have won of two straight, eight of nine and 11 of 13. They are four games behind the Cavaliers and trail the second-place Celtics by percentage points.

Joe Johnson scored 21 points for the Hawks, who have dropped three straight and six of eight. Atlanta dropped to 29-10 at home, where it has lost three of four.

A pair of free throws by Johnson gave Atlanta its biggest lead at 57-47 at the 5:45 mark of the third quarter.

Howard hit two free throws with 2:32 remaining for a 13-point lead, Orlando’s biggest.

Rashard Lewis finished with 16 points, and Rafer Alston had 14 for the Magic, who improved to 13-2 overall and 7-1 on the road against the Southeast Division.

Josh Smith had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Atlanta. Al Horford, who spent most of the night trying unsuccessfully to guard Howard, finished with 13 rebounds and 13 points.

Atlanta never led after Lewis hit a 16-footer in the final seconds of the third.

Notes:@ On consecutive possessions midway through the third, Howard and Smith took turns blocking each other’s shots. … Hawks coach Mike Woodson indicated F Marvin Williams has shown no signs he’ll be able to return to the lineup after missing the last 14 games with a lower back injury. … Orlando, which began the game with the NBA’s third-best defense in defending 3-pointers, held the Hawks to just 3-for-19 beyond the arc, including a combined 3-for-15 by Johnson and Mike Bibby. Offensively, the Magic hit just nine of 30 attempts on 3s. Lewis and Courtney Lee combined to go 4-for-13.

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