ORLANDO, Fla. – Dwight Howard had 28 points and 13 rebounds, and the Orlando Magic held off the injury-depleted Milwaukee Bucks 97-87 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight victory.
Milwaukee lost for the seventh time in 10 games, trudging on without three of its five top scorers in guard Brandon Jennings (broken left foot), guard Carlos Delfino (concussion symptoms) and forward Drew Gooden (plantar fasciitis in his left foot).
Orlando avenged an 11-point loss at Milwaukee on Dec. 4 in which it played without Howard, Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, who were all sidelined by the flu. With Howard out last month, Bucks big man Andrew Bogut had an easy time in the paint, scoring 31 points and grabbing 18 rebounds opposite Magic reserve Marcin Gortat, who is no longer with the team.
But with Howard back in the middle Wednesday, Bogut settled for more mid-range jumpers early on and often opted to kick the ball to the perimeter instead of challenging him. Bogut finished with six points and fouled out with 9:26 left.
The Magic led by as many as 19 before their lead was cut to 84-79 on a jumper by John Salmons with 4:06 remaining. A basket by Howard and 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu got the lead back to 10 and helped the Magic secure the win despite shooting just 5 of 22 from beyond the arc.
Corey Maggette led Milwaukee with 21 points. Larry Sanders had 15 and Salmons 13.
Orlando led 49-33 at halftime as Howard stayed out of foul trouble and used an assortment of running hooks and short jumpers to post a team-high 17 points. He also mixed in some easy dunks, including one at the halftime buzzer.
Magic forward Brandon Bass, who for now has opted not to have surgery on his sore left knee, didn't look to be in any discomfort. He scored six of the Magic's first 14 points and his five first-half rebounds helped Orlando keep a 27-23 edge on the glass in the opening 24 minutes.
Bogut went to the bench with his third found at the 3:17 mark in the second quarter and Milwaukee struggled to find cohesion without him as an eight-point first-quarter deficit quickly grew to double digits.
Maggette had eight points off the bench in the first half, but the Bucks got only four points combined out of the starting backcourt of Salmons and Keyon Dooling as they shot just 34 percent from the field as a team.
NOTES: The Magic host Houston on Friday night before traveling to Dallas on Saturday to begin a four-game road trip. ... Milwaukee returns home to host Miami on Friday.