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Howard powers Magic over 76ers

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 22, 2013 at 04:32 PM
ORLANDO -

The Orlando Magic are going back to Philadelphia with a chance to close out the 76ers. Dwight Howard made sure of it.

Howard had 24 points and a career playoff-high 24 rebounds, a dominating performance that powered the Magic to a 91-78 victory over the Sixers on Tuesday night and gave Orlando a 3-2 series lead.

Rashard Lewis snapped out of his playoff slump with a series-high 24 points, and Rafer Alston scored 14 for the Magic. It was Howard's fourth career playoff game with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds.

Andre Iguodala scored 26 points and led a second-half charge that fizzled fast, and Andre Miller added 17 points for Philadelphia.

The Sixers face elimination in Game 6 in the best-of-seven series on Thursday in Philadelphia. A potential Game 7 would be Saturday in Orlando.

The Magic managed to keep home-court advantage without starting shooting guard Courtney Lee, who took an elbow to the head from Howard early in the first quarter and never returned. Thanks to Howard, he wasn't missed.

Howard led a third-quarter surge, muscling his way past the Sixers and elevating above everyone. Howard had two dunks, including an alley-oop from Hedo Turkoglu over Theo Ratliff, that highlighted a 12-5 run to put the Magic ahead 58-47 and put the blue-and-white crowd into a Thunderstick-pounding frenzy.

But just like they've done all series, the Sixers came back.

Philadelphia cut the deficit to four points in only a few minutes on Iguodala's three-point play, converting a running layup on a foul by Turkoglu. The Magic went ahead 69-60 at the end of the period on a 3-pointer by Turkoglu, and they took a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter on a layup by Howard.

That lead was too much for Philadelphia to overcome, although coach Tony DiLeo decided to take two timeouts and a pair of fouls in the final minute to cut into the deficit.

The Sixers are now in the same position as a year ago, when they took a 2-1 series lead on Detroit before losing in six games. Philadelphia hasn't won a playoff series since beating New Orleans in the first round in 2003.

Plans changed fast for the Magic.

Lee's injury knocked him out of the game - and possibly longer - and threw off Orlando's rotation. Howard soared high and blocked a shot by Willie Green on the play in the first quarter. Howard's elbow came down on Lee, who was on the floor for a few minutes before going to the locker room for good with a towel to his head. His status for Game 6 was not immediately clear.

Perhaps the Sixers became too complacent.

Struggling to cover the Magic's 3-point shooters for one of the few times all series, the Sixers blew an early six-point lead. Lewis hit a pair of 3s and J.J. Redick added another to give Orlando a 21-15 lead late in the period.

The second quarter followed a similar pattern to the first four games - a lot of lead changes, tough defense and inconsistent shooting. Orlando would regroup and end the half on an 8-2 run capped by a layup by Marcin Gortat on a near full-court pass from Alston to go ahead 45-39.

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