Dwight Howard, Magic get back on track against Clippers

LOS ANGELES -- The Orlando Magic came out running the floor and defending with seemingly boundless energy. The Los Angeles Clippers never knew what hit them.

Dwight Howard scored 22 points and the Magic won 94-85 Sunday night, snapping skids of four games overall and three straight on the road.

Jameer Nelson added 17 points, Vince Carter 13, and Brandon Bass had 13 points and a career high-tying 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.

The Magic built a 26-point lead early in the second quarter, and the Clippers never fully dug themselves out.

Blake Griffin had 27 points and 16 rebounds for his 18th double-double, and Eric Gordon scored 28 points for the Clippers, who lost for the eighth time in a row to Orlando. Their NBA-worst record dropped to 5-20, and they have yet to beat an Eastern Conference team in five tries.

Griffin earned kudos from Howard after their first matchup, just like he did earlier in the week after playing against Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant.

"He is really aggressive out there. That is what I like about him," Howard said. "He just needs to continue to work hard and get better. They are going to be a good team."

After losing consecutive one-point games, the Clippers only got as close as six points in the fourth quarter on Baron Davis' alley-oop pass to Griffin, whose dunk briefly brought the crowd to its feet. Los Angeles trailed by 26 points early in the second.

"It started on the defensive end. We did a great job of forcing them into taking a bad shot with the shot clock running low," Griffin said about the play. "As soon as we had it, I just took off and Baron put the ball on the money like he always does."

Bass dunked for the Magic, who made just three of their next eight free throws but regained a double-digit lead that they held for most of the final minutes.

"We did some really good things, like take care of the ball," Griffin said, noting the team's season-low eight turnovers. "We still got to be more consistent and play a whole game.

"It's tough, but at the same time I know it's not going to happen overnight. It's going to be gradual."

Orlando's defense had been allowing 92.2 points a game -- third-highest in the league -- but the poor-shooting Clippers were no threat to reach that total. They hit 38 percent from the floor for the game, and a measly 24 percent in the first quarter.

"My first six shots were wide open, I just wasn't knocking them down," Gordon said. "We just had a bad start. We cut it down to six, but it still takes a toll on you. We took good shots and just didn't make them."

In the Clippers' last three losses, they've been well under their season averages in points and shooting percentage.

"We had some good looks, we just couldn't knock anything down," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.

The Clippers trailed 69-59 after outscoring the Magic 19-10 in the third. Howard picked up his fourth foul 1½ minutes into the period and sat down, while Nelson was limited to a 3-pointer and Carter had four points.

"We have been struggling defensively anyway but without Dwight, people just attack the rim and we seem absolutely helpless to do anything about it," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Howard could see what was wrong from the bench.

"The ball was stagnant, we weren't getting in the paint, we took a lot of jumpshots," he said. "I just wanted to be aggressive on the offensive end and try to get some fouls, get to the free throw line, but also just attack. We stopped attacking and that allowed them to get back in the game."

Los Angeles cut its 26-point deficit down in the second to trail 59-40 at halftime. Griffin and Gordon had seven points each. The Magic built their largest lead using a 19-4 run over the end of the first and start of the second, with six different players scoring.

The Magic outran the Clippers in the opening quarter when they shot 64 percent from the floor and owned a 20-2 edge in the paint.

Game notes
Gordon has scored 20 or more points 20 times this season. ... Van Gundy earned career victory No. 298. ... The Magic improved to 7-5 on the road. ... The Clippers' last win against the Magic was on Dec. 3, 2006. ... After two days off, the Clippers open a three-game trip on Wednesday at Philadelphia. They are 0-10 on the road.

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