- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Dwight Howard had 28 points and came up three assists shy of a triple double, powering the Orlando Magic to a 106-80 blowout victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

Howard finished with 12 rebounds and seven assists, while Hedo Turkoglu added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Orlando. The Magic rebounded from a loss to Cleveland on Tuesday night to win for the eighth time in their last 10 games.

Charlie Villanueva had 17 points for the Bucks, who are desperately trying to earn the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and were coming off a home victory over Boston.

Milwaukee fell to 2-3 on its critical and challenging six-game homestand that ends against Portland on Saturday night.

Howard went after the Bucks early and often after taking only eight shots in Orlando’s loss at Cleveland on Tuesday. He scored 18 points in the first quarter alone, putting together his own 10-2 run to end the quarter.

He began the scoring spurt by converting three-point plays on back-to-back possessions, then dunked home a putback. After a pair of free throws by Milwaukee’s Richard Jefferson, Howard scored on a layup with 23 seconds left to give Orlando a 36-20 lead going into the second quarter.

Howard then rested for the first 6-plus minutes of the second quarter, but Milwaukee couldn’t make up any ground.

Malik Allen was one of several Bucks who struggled trying to defend Howard _ and then Allen picked up his third and fourth fouls in the final minutes of the first half.

Allen’s third foul came when he sent J.J. Redick crashing to the floor under the basket, then picked up his fourth foul on the offensive end with 32.3 seconds left in the half.

Howard’s only noticeable misstep came midway through the third quarter, when he was called for offensive basket interference on a putback attempt. But it didn’t matter much, because Orlando was leading 69-45 at the time.

Howard recovered to make a huge block near the end of the third quarter, slapping a shot by Milwaukee’s Charlie Bell over his teammates’ heads on the bench and into the second row of seats.

Howard then went skyward to slam home an alley-oop pass from Turkoglu early in the fourth quarter, putting the Magic up by 26.

Howard, who recorded his first career triple double _ in points, rebounds and blocked shots _ at Oklahoma City Nov. 12, remained on the bench for much of the fourth quarter.

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