The All Star centre Dwight Howard celebrated his 24th birthday by scoring 25 points in the Orlando Magic's 97-86 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. 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.
"LA is a fun place to play, except when you play the Lakers," Howard said. "I'm not satisfied, but I think we're getting better. That's what we want, to stay humble and not get complacent." 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 after injury and Baron Davis had 18 and 11 assists.
"The biggest difference in the game was shooting ability," said the 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." Atlantic Division strugglers the New Jersey Nets earned a second win in three games after ending their NBA-record start of 18 successive defeats. They edged out the Chicago Bulls 103-101 with 25 points from Brook Lopez and 20 from Chris Douglas-Roberts.
"The Nets are finally getting healthy. They will start winning some games," said Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro, who has his own set of problems with eight losses in nine games. The Boston Celtics claimed their eighth successive win as they saw off the Milwaukee Bucks 98-89 on the back of Kevin Garnett's 25-point haul, with Rajon Rondo adding 11 points and 13 assists. "I knew eventually they would sag back and make me try and score," Rondo said. "In the second half, I tried to be a little bit more aggressive."
Dirk Nowitzki's 33 points led the Dallas Mavericks to a 102-101 win over the Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash (27), Jason Richardson (25) and Amare Stoudemire (20) scored for the Suns but they missed out on a win when Stoudemire missed a last-second three-pointer. "Teams are switching every time, making Steve into an offensive player and keeping the rest of the guys out of sync," Stoudemire said. "That's why we're not playing fast tempo. But we'll figure it out."
The Memphis Grizzlies claimed an 111-109 win against Cleveland Cavaliers thanks to Mike Conley's lay-up three seconds from the end of overtime.LeBron James hit the rim with a last-second three-point attempt that would have won it for the Cavs. * With agencies