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Dwight Howard leads Magic past Heat 101-95

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[March 31, 2009]  MIAMI (AP) -- n the night Miami retired Alonzo Mourning's number, Orlando's big man wrecked the party.

InsuranceDwight Howard scored 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest NBA player to reach the 5,000-board mark, and the Magic kept their grip on the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference by beating the Heat 101-95 on Monday night.

Rashard Lewis scored 21 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining for Orlando (55-18), which stayed five games behind Cleveland and percentage points ahead of defending champion Boston in the East race.

Dwyane Wade scored 13 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter for the Heat (39-35), whose edge over Philadelphia for the East's No. 5 seed was trimmed to one game.

The series has been one-sided, with Orlando having won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the clubs.

This game, most assuredly, was not.

Hedo Turkoglu scored 16 points, Rafer Alston added 13 and Courtney Lee finished with 10 for Orlando. Mario Chalmers scored 13 points and had seven assists for the Heat, and Jermaine O'Neal added 10 for Miami.


The loss was especially costly for the Heat. Backup point guard Luther Head broke his left hand during the game and will miss four to six weeks, meaning there likely will be no way he's available for Miami's first-round playoff series.

There were seven lead changes and four ties in the final 5:49, with Wade -- as typically is the case -- carrying most of the offensive load for Miami. Three times in a span of 2 1/2 minutes, Wade either had a dunk or a layup that gave the Heat the lead, the last of those coming with 2:52 left and putting Miami up 92-91.

Orlando simply wasn't rattled.

Howard rattled home the second of two free throws to tie it, Lewis got free for a 3-pointer from near the Heat bench, and Turkoglu found Howard under the basket for a layup that put the Magic up 97-92 with 50.5 seconds remaining.

Miami got within two on Wade's free throws with 17 seconds left, but J.J. Redick answered those with a pair of his own 2 seconds later, and Orlando escaped -- spoiling the Mourning party.

Mourning's friends and family took bets on whether he'd cry during the halftime celebration, and he insisted he wouldn't.

He was wrong.

The 43-minute ceremony featured the reading of a letter from President Barack Obama, plus brief speeches from Gov. Charlie Crist, Heat president Pat Riley, Mourning's former Georgetown coach John Thompson and fellow former Hoya Patrick Ewing, a longtime mentor.

"Just eight short years ago, eight short years ago, I didn't envision this moment happening," Mourning said, moments after the banner bearing his name and No. 33 was raised. "This is probably one of the greatest moments of my life and I'm honored to be here this evening."

He was diagnosed with kidney disease in 2000, needed a transplant in 2003, and was told he'd never play in the NBA again. He returned, of course, and got the NBA championship he spent a career chasing in 2006, when the Heat beat Dallas in six games.

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"I wanted to let you know how proud we all are of your extraordinary career, but also the way you have given back to the community all these years," Obama wrote to Mourning. "You have been, and will continue to be, a great leader. God bless you and your family."

As the speeches went on, Mourning's eyes began to water. Tears flowed and his lips trembled when the banner was being hoisted.

"Y'all can go and collect your money," Mourning said.

It was a night for the Heat to celebrate, coach Erik Spoelstra said before the game, and sure enough, Miami seemed inspired.

Orlando led 46-43 after a back-and-forth first half, where the Heat started fast, went ice cold to fall into a double-digit hole, then clawed back.

Halftime for NBA games that aren't nationally televised are typically 14 minutes. Monday's was supposed to be 24 minutes to accommodate the Mourning ceremony, but by the time the game actually resumed, roughly the equivalent of three halftimes had passed.

And once again, when the Magic seemed poised to take control, Miami tried to fight back. Lewis made a 3-pointer with 2:01 left for a 70-63 Orlando lead, but the Heat scored the final six points of the quarter and were only down by one heading into the fourth.


Notes: Howard has 12 straight double-doubles against Miami. ... Chalmers got fouled on a 3-pointer with 28.6 seconds left in the half; he missed all three free throws. ... Redick turned the ball over twice because he stood out of bounds while receiving passes for what would've been wide-open jumpers. ... Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez, a longtime close friend of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, sat courtside. Tennis player Andy Roddick, in town for the Sony Ericsson Open, also was in attendance. ... Heat forward Udonis Haslem needed seven stitches in the fourth quarter after getting cut over an eye; he appeared to bump heads with Chalmers and saw the front of his white jersey quickly splattered with droplets of blood.

[Associated Press; By TIM REYNOLDS]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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