- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - The Orlando Magic won’t see the Cleveland Cavaliers again unless both make it to the Eastern Conference finals.

If that happens, the Magic like their chances.

Dwight Howard had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Magic built a 41-point lead before handing the Cavaliers their most lopsided loss of the season, 116-87 Friday night.

Orlando has won eight of its last 11 against Cleveland.

“If we ever got in a series with Cleveland, we’d have great confidence going in,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We’ve played them well for two years.”

Rashard Lewis had 22 points, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 13 for the Magic, who remained percentage points behind Boston _ but tied in the loss column _ for the Eastern Conference’s second seed. The Magic would likely have to get through the Celtics before they could think about Cleveland.

“But I think we do match up really well with them,” Howard said.

LeBron James finished with 26 points and nine rebounds but shot 7-for-20 from the floor. He stayed in for part of the fourth quarter to help Cleveland dodge its worst loss since he was drafted in 2003. Only Daniel Gibson’s 3-pointer in the waning seconds saved Cleveland from that fate.

Never in his basketball life could James recall being down by more than 40 points, a loss he simply called “embarrassing.”

Cleveland’s 35-point defeat at Detroit on Nov. 11, 2007, was the biggest in the LeBron Era. It was a shocking loss for a team with the NBA’s best record, which lost consecutive games for only the second time this season.

“It’s not about how many games you lose, it’s about how you lose them,” James said. “The last two games weren’t how we play the game of basketball.”

Lewis made consecutive 3-pointers to cap a 19-2 start to the second half, a flurry of swishes and Howard dunks that simply overwhelmed Cleveland. Things got so bad that even central Florida resident and the Magic’s most famous fan, Tiger Woods, left his courtside seat at the end of the third quarter and never returned.

Heat 97, Bobcats 92

At Charlotte, N.C., Dwyane Wade had 27 points and 10 assists, and Miami clinched a playoff berth a year after an ugly 15-win season.

Wade made three free throws in the final 19 seconds. Charlotte’s Raymond Felton then missed a tying 3-point attempt with 5 seconds left.

Gerald Wallace had 21 points in a damaging loss for the Bobcats, who dropped their second straight to fall two games behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Lakers 93, Rockets 81

At Los Angeles, Pau Gasol had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant added 20 points, and Los Angeles picked up its 60th victory.

Derek Fisher added 15 for the Lakers, who reached 60 wins for the 11th time in franchise history and the first since they went 67-15 in 1999-2000. Los Angeles pulled within a game of Cleveland for the NBA’s best record.

Ron Artest had 21 points for Houston.

Celtics 104, Hawks 92

At Boston, Paul Pierce scored 21 points, and Rajon Rondo had 20 to help Boston maintain its hold on the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Kendrick Perkins had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Glen Davis added 19 points in place of Kevin Garnett, who missed his fourth straight game and his 17th of 21 because of a right knee strain. Flip Murray had 21 points for Atlanta.

Spurs 126, Pacers 121

At Indianapolis, Tony Parker had 31 points and 10 assists, and Tim Duncan added 22 points and 11 rebounds for San Antonio.

Michael Finley had 18 points for the Spurs, a half-game behind Denver in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Danny Granger had 35 points for Indiana, four games behind Chicago for the No. 8 spot in the East.

Suns 139, Kings 111

At Phoenix, Steve Nash had 29 points and nine assists to help Phoenix gain ground in its last-ditch playoff drive.

The Suns’ seventh straight home victory, combined with Dallas’ loss at Memphis, left Phoenix three games behind the Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the West with six to play. The Suns are at Dallas on Sunday.

Francisco Garcia scored 29 points for Sacramento.

Grizzlies 107, Mavericks 102

At Memphis, Tenn., Rudy Gay had 27 points and 10 rebounds, and Mike Conley added 25 points in Memphis’ third straight victory and fourth in five games.

Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki scored 25 of his 36 points in the second half. The Mavericks are eighth in the West, three games ahead of Phoenix.

Trail Blazers 107, Thunder 72

At Oklahoma City, LaMarcus Aldridge had 35 points and a career-high 18 rebounds, and Portland moved within a victory or a Phoenix loss of clinching a playoff spot.

Brandon Roy added 15 points for Portland. Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 13.

Timberwolves 103, Jazz 102

At Salt Lake City, Rodney Carney scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a tiebreaking 3-pointer with a minute left, and Minnesota snapped a nine-game road skid and ended Utah’s home winning streak at 15.

Ryan Gomes also scored 25 points for Minnesota. Deron Williams missed a shot at the buzzer that would have won it for Utah. He finished with 34 points and 11 assists.

Warriors 111, Hornets 103

At Oakland, Calif., Jamal Crawford scored 39 points, and Anthony Randolph had 20 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for Golden State.

Anthony Morrow had 24 points on a career-high five 3-pointers, the last of which gave the Warriors a 99-92 lead with 2:36 remaining. New Orleans’ Chris Paul had 43 points, nine assists and four rebounds, and David West added 31 points and 14 rebounds.

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