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Magic cast spell, eclipse Suns

THE Orlando Magic rallied for a 111-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, the home team winning a game highlighted by a physical tussle between Dwight Howard and former favorite son Shaquille O'Neal.

Howard scored 21 points and eight rebounds to O'Neal's 19 points and 11 rebounds, but the latter drew a technical with three and a half minutes remaining and Orlando took advantage by reeling off eight successive points to build a comfortable lead.

"I thought Dwight had a terrific second half," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters.

Howard, who like O'Neal possesses extreme confidence in his ability on the court, scored only four points in a foul-prone first half but collected 17 in the second, including two free throws after O'Neal's foul.

The 23-year-old was obviously upset by O'Neal's earlier remarks that Howard was his understudy at best.

"I think that Shaq was really trying to get in my head," Howard said.

"I respect my elders and I'm not going to get into a war of words with anybody. There's no need for it."

Van Gundy, however, had plenty to say about O'Neal, who turns 37 tomorrow.

"I was shocked...and very disappointed," Van Gundy coach said while accusing O'Neal of "flopping" - a basketball term for a defensive player intentionally falling down in an attempt to draw a charging foul.

"Let's stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight," he added.

O'Neal also expressed disappointment at the Magic's strategy of double-teaming him instead of letting him and Howard go head-to-head.

"I like to play people one-on-one," he said. "My whole career, I had to play people one-on-one. I not once had to double and not once asked for a double.

"I'd like to show people I'm still unstoppable," he added.

In other National Basketball Association games, it was: Rockets 107, Raptors 97; Pistons 110, Nuggets 95; Lakers 99, Grizzlies 89; Nets 99, Bucks 95; Bobcats 96, Bulls 80; Pacers 117, Kings 109; and Warriors 118, Timberwolves 94.

In Orlando, Florida, a six-minute cold snap by the Suns also contributed to their downfall as the Magic outscored them 33-18 in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix led 91-88 with 7:26 remaining after Jason Richardson's three-pointer, but the visitors did not score another field goal until 1:25 was left on the clock.

By then the Magic had the game under control at 105-97.

Rashard Lewis led the Magic with 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Hedo Turkoglu added 22 points as Orlando went ten points clear atop the Southeast Division. The Magic have the league's fourth-best record overall.

Richardson paced Phoenix with 27 points and playmaker Steve Nash had 20 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

Nash had missed the previous three Suns games with a sprained ankle.

In Houston, the hosts extended their home-court winning streak to 10 games by downing Toronto.

Carl Landry matched a career high with 22 points, while Luis Scola added 20 points and 16 rebounds.

The Rockets moved a game ahead of New Orleans and Portland in the Western Conference standings.

The Raptors have lost seven of their past eight road games.


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