- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy threw his clipboard in disgust after a basket by Washington’s James Singleton, stomped his foot and called timeout with his team ahead.

If the Orlando Magic’s remaining regular-season games are mostly meaningless, it sure didn’t look like it.

Dwight Howard had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Magic beat the Washington Wizards 121-94 on Wednesday night.

Refusing to rest his starters for the playoffs, Van Gundy wants things to stay rolling.

“I just want to keep getting better,” he said. “We’re just going to keep working on trying to shore up areas where we need to get better.”

In other words, business as usual.

J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus added 16 points apiece to pull Orlando within a half-game of the idle Los Angeles Lakers for home-court advantage in case of a possible NBA finals rematch, the only thing really left at stake for the Magic. They’ve already clinched a third straight Southeast Division title and are locked into the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 playoff seed.

“That’s really looking ahead, but that’s really all we have to play for right now,” Magic forward Matt Barnes said. “Every game is still important.”

Not so much for Washington.

Nick Young had 21 points, and Mike Miller scored 16 for the Wizards, who missed another chance for their first three-game winning streak in two years. The teams split the season series 2-2.

“We ran out of gas a little bit,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said.

They also had no problem with the Magic’s aggressive attitude.

“I think it’s a smart play,” Miller said. “It’s not coach Van Gundy’s first rodeo. He’s done this before. I think it’s good to keep yourself on that rhythm.”

The play in the second quarter was a microcosm of Van Gundy’s philosophy.

After Singleton made a jumper over Pietrus, Van Gundy was having none of the poor defense and shoddy effort. He railed his players before picking up the clipboard and drawing up a play.

“Sort of on cruise control, not with a lot of energy and intensity in the first half,” he said. “We couldn’t stop them, which is a concern.”

The Magic responded with a 16-2 run capped by 3-pointers by Ryan Anderson and Pietrus to go ahead 46-33. The Wizards would come back quickly, trimming the lead to six at the half.

That wouldn’t last.

The Magic went on a 16-4 spurt and ended the third quarter in dramatic fashion: Jason Williams made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left. Then Barnes stole a pass from Fabricio Oberto and batted the ball back to Williams, who converted a 26-footer at the buzzer to give the Magic a 19-point lead and throw the crowd into a frenzy.

“That was pretty good,” Van Gundy said.

“I just got lucky,” Williams said.

A day after Cleveland coach Mike Brown said he intends to rest his players and is approaching the final regular-season games “as a high-level practice,” the Magic are choosing to go full speed into the postseason. Orlando has won 16 of its last 19 games and plays at Cleveland on Sunday.

Van Gundy has said he won’t sit players unless they’re injured because the Magic, who use a deep bench, don’t have anybody in the top 40 in minutes played.

They also have a chance to catch the Lakers in the chance they meet in the finals.

Orlando and Los Angeles split the season series. The Magic will have to finish ahead of the Lakers in the standings because Los Angeles owns the tiebreaker with a better record against the East than Orlando has versus the West.

Van Gundy said he can understand Brown’s plans. Just don’t expect the Magic to change theirs.

“They have home-court wrapped up all the way through the playoffs, so he’s right,” Van Gundy said. “It’s a nice situation to be in. I’ve never been there.”<

NOTES: Wizards F Al Thornton returned after missing the last seven games with a strained hip flexor. He was held scoreless in 12 minutes of play. … Magic G Vince Carter showed no signs of being slowed by injury after tweaking his right big toe during Tuesday’s practice. … The Wizards’ last three-game winning streak came April 4-9, 2008.

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