- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - Dwight Howard protested a goaltending call. He and his coach, Stan Van Gundy, were bothered by a charging call, too. Perhaps what really irked the pair was that their Orlando Magic were barely beating the woeful Washington Wizards.

In the end, Howard’s 18 points, 13 rebounds and career-high seven assists, and Orlando’s depth were more than undermanned Washington could handle, as the Magic held on to win 112-103 Friday night for their sixth victory in seven games.

This one did not come as easily as one might have thought. Consider: The Magic already clinched a playoff spot and entered the day leading the Southeast Division by 10 1/2 games. The worst-in-the-East Wizards, meanwhile, came in 15-50 and 0-13 against the division.

Plus, the Magic had won each of the teams’ three previous meetings this season, by an average score of 100-84.

But Nick Young’s fallaway jumper with a little under 7 minutes left pulled Washington within 91-90. And it was still only a two-point game, the Magic up 99-97, with 3 1/2 minutes to go, before Rashard Lewis’ 3-pointer gave the visitors a bit of a cushion.

Mickael Pietrus had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando, while Lewis scored 19 and Rafer Alston added 18.

Antawn Jamison scored a season-high 36 points for the Wizards, while second-year guard Young added 20.

As if the Wizards didn’t already have enough problems _ what with Gilbert Arenas, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson sidelined by injuries _ two-time All-Star Caron Butler sat out the second half with a tight hamstring. And reserve forward Andray Blatche left in the second half with an injury that wasn’t announced.

Butler, who missed three games earlier this month because of that muscle, had five points on 1-for-7 shooting in 19 minutes during the first half.

Even without him, even though it trailed by as many as 14 points, Washington wouldn’t go quietly.

Howard was called three times for goaltending in a 2 1/2-minute span of the fourth quarter, and after the final one, he complained enough to draw a technical foul. It was his 13th tech of the season, the third-highest total in the NBA.

Young made that free throw to trim Orlando’s lead to 87-86 with just under 9 minutes remaining.

About 4 1/2 minutes later, Howard was whistled for charging into JaVale McGee, a call that left Howard shaking his head and brought Van Gundy onto the court, clapping and laughing sarcastically in an official’s direction.

But Orlando ended the game on a 13-6 run.

Orlando clinched a playoff spot earlier in the week and now is vying for positioning. Overtaking the reigning NBA champion Boston Celtics for the No. 2 seeding in the Eastern Conference is a definite possibility _ and there’s an even an outside chance of catching the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are playing out the string on a disappointing season, one that will end their streak of four consecutive playoff appearances and could close with the worst record in team history.

The franchise never has finished a season with fewer than 18 victories _ even in the lockout-shortened, 50-game 1998-99 season.

Notes:@ Magic F Hedo Turkoglu missed a second consecutive game with an injured left foot. … Friday was Butler’s 29th birthday. … Orlando has won 11 of its past 15 games against Washington.

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