Howard had 24 points and 13 rebounds as the Orlando Magic outlasted the Milwaukee Bucks 108-101 Monday night in a matchup of injury-depleted teams.
Richard Jefferson scored 25 points to lead Milwaukee, which lost Andrew Bogut to a knee bruise in the third quarter. The Bucks were already missing Michael Redd and Luke Ridnour, their starting backcourt, to injuries.
Hedo Turkoglu, forced to play some point guard when Jameer Nelson went out with a groin pull, and Rashard Lewis each added 22 points for the Magic. Howard picked up his fourth foul halfway through the third quarter but played eight minutes in the final quarter, scoring 7 points but making only 5 of 11 free throws.
"It was a war of attrition, that's what it was," Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They came in here missing guys and we came in missing one, then lost one and had one in foul trouble. Neither team was playing with the guys they really wanted to play with most of the night."
Orlando (10-4) led by 12 with just under two minutes left, but poor free-throw shooting and Jefferson almost brought the Bucks back. His short jumper with 24 seconds left cut the lead to 103-100, but free throws by Turkoglu and Lewis sealed the win.
"Some games we just come out and our talent takes us over the edge, but we've got to learn how to play together," Howard said. "Sometimes our talent won't take us that far."
Milwaukee committed 39 fouls but Orlando made only 38 of 54 free throws.
"We cannot afford to come out here and try to outscore these guys," Luc Mbah a Moute said. "They have an offense that is more established than our offense. Our main thing is to defend. Tonight we did not do a good job of it."
Howard made only 10 of 20.
"It's every game, so I do worry about that," Van Gundy said.
Bogut got the better of a matchup of back-to-back No. 1 overall draft picks early. Bogut made a pair of jump hooks over Howard to start the game. He then drew charges for two of the three fouls that sent Howard, the 2004 top pick, to the bench with about seven minutes left in the second quarter.
Bogut had 16 points and three rebounds in the first. Howard, the No. 1 pick had only four points and six boards.
In the first three minutes of the second half, Bogut picked up three fouls trying to stop Howard inside, sending Bogut to the bench with four. A minute later, Bogut was taken to the locker room for X-rays.
"I took a charge in the first half and got a knee," Bogut said. "But I'll be OK."
Turkoglu hit a 3 at the end of the first quarter to give the Magic a 33-23 lead. Milwaukee cut the lead to six midway through the second quarter, but another basket by Turkoglu gave Orlando a 58-47 halftime lead.
Both teams have already been hit hard by injuries. The Magic announced earlier Monday that sixth man Keith Bogans would miss at least a month with a broken thumb.
Redd, out since Nov. 5 with a high ankle sprain, was joined on the inactive list by point guard Ridnour, who suffered a scraped and bruised knee against the Bobcats. Ridnour had missed two games earlier this year with lower back spasms.
Redd was averaging 21.3 in four games before his injury.
"People are saying to us, 'You're coming close to beating good teams, what would take you over the edge?'" Jefferson said. "Those guys might be able to take you over the edge, but that being said, you can't go out there and wait."
Orlando's early-season schedule was littered with teams that finished last in their divisions, and three of the Magic's losses early wins were against the four teams they've played with a winning record.
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