Superman shines on birthday as Magic beat Clippers

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - All Star center Dwight Howard celebrated his 24th birthday by scoring 25 points in the Orlando Magic's 97-86 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.

Howard, nicknamed "Superman" by fans, added 11 rebounds and seven blocked shots to set the pace as Orlando improved to 17-4 for their best start since the 1995-96 season.

"Dwight was rolling tonight," team mate Vince Carter told reporters.

Howard also made 11 of 15 free throws as the Clippers' tactic of putting him at the line backfired.

Rashard Lewis added 17 points and Jason Williams 16 in the Southeast-leading Magic's eighth consecutive road victory, a single-season franchise record.

Second-year guard Eric Gordon had a team-high 21 points for the Clippers in his second game back from a hamstring injury and Baron Davis put up 18 and 11 assists.

Los Angeles (9-12) lost their way in the fourth quarter where Orlando outscored the Clippers 24-17 and took a double-digit lead with 7:43 remaining.

"The biggest difference in the game was shooting ability," said Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy.

"(Shooting threes) is something they do well -- they made us pay for some mistakes. We got more shots, we just didn't make them."

Orlando's perimeter shooting complimented the inside presence of Howard. The team made 14 of 34 three-pointers and moved into a tie with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Magic have won 11 of their last 12.

The Clippers entered the game having won three of their last four. Chris Kaman recorded 16 points and Al Thornton put up 15 for Los Angeles, who are still without first overall draft choice Blake Griffin (knee).

(Writing by Jahmal Corner; Editing by Peter Rutherford)