ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The Orlando Magic sprinted to the finish line with a late run to turn back the Indiana Pacers 106-98 in a physical contest on Monday.
Vince Carter scored a game-high 28 points while Dwight Howard powered his way to 21 points and 23 rebounds for the Magic, who used a 12-2 spurt in the last few minutes to run away with what had been a close contest.
Trailing 96-94 with 4:58 left, Orlando scored 10 straight points over the next four minutes to halt a stretch of two straight losses and improve to 18-6 on the season.
It was a strong recovery performance for Howard, who was held to just one field goal attempt against the Phoenix Suns on Friday but endured some hard fouls to dominate the Pacers.
"It's out of hand what they're letting people do to Dwight," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't care who you are. You can only take that for so long."
Looking for their third straight win, the Pacers (8-14) faltered down the stretch with turnovers and missed shots despite 26 points from Mike Dunleavy.
Playing without leading scorer Danny Granger, who is out for at least four weeks with a foot injury, Indiana came out hot and led 36-19 early in the second quarter before Orlando responded and pulled back to within one by halftime.
In the third quarter, Howard was grabbed violently by Indiana's Troy Murphy and the two confronted each other. Both received technical fouls.
"I just have to stay calm," Howard said. "Guys are going to do whatever they can to get me frustrated. I just got to stay frustration-free and injury-free."
The All Star big man also had four blocks including one as the Magic held Indiana scoreless during a four-minute stretch toward the end of the game.
Orlando's defense came up big late to compensate for the team's 42 percent shooting. Anthony Johnson and J.J. Redick both scored 13 points off the bench for the home side.
Murphy finished with 14 points for the Pacers while rookie Tyler Hansbrough had just eight points after entering the game averaging more than 17 points and seven rebounds in his last three games.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)