MILWAUKEE -- Vince Carter took an elbow to the face. He returned in time to knock out the Bucks.
Carter scored 19 of his 25 points in the second half after getting four stitches inside his mouth and lip, and Dwight Howard added 25 points and 20 rebounds to rally the Orlando Magic to a 100-98 victory over Milwaukee on Saturday night.
"Four stitches and one ugly lip," said Carter, the wire from the stitching still dangling out of the side of his mouth after the game. "For us, it was just sustain, weather the storm and find a way to win, especially in the second half, and I think we did a great job of it."
Howard, who also had four blocks, dominated the paint with Bucks center Andrew Bogut (sprained left leg) out of the lineup. But Howard's biggest rebound was the one he didn't get as the final seconds ticked off, tapping the ball several times in the air before Matt Barnes finally grabbed it at the end.
"I was really just trying to tip it to myself to get an easy shot," Howard said. "At the end of the game, the refs are just going to let things happen. It was a war down there and luckily we just wanted it more than they did."
Orlando, winners of seven of the last eight and best in the Eastern Conference at 13-4, trailed by 15 midway through the third quarter before Carter helped the Magic rally.
He missed all but 10 minutes of the first half after he was inadvertently elbowed in the face midway through the first quarter. He played the entire second half, and declined to say who hit him.
"That's big time, you could tell he had the fire in his eye in the fourth quarter when we really needed him," said Rashard Lewis, who finished with 14 points and had the go-ahead jumper with 44 seconds left. "He stepped up big, made big shots and brought it home for us."
But Orlando nearly squandered a 10-point fourth quarter lead after going up 91-81 on J.J. Redick's three-point play with 5:27 to go.
Milwaukee, which has lost four straight after an 8-3 start, tied it at 95 when rookie Brandon Jennings, who finished with 18 points, hit a 3 with 2:40 to play.
After the teams traded baskets and a free throw each, Carter missed a layup, Howard got an offensive rebound and Lewis hit an 11-footer to make it 100-98.
Ersan Ilyasova, who finished with 20 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, missed a 3-point attempt that would have given Milwaukee the lead. Luke Ridnour, who had 20 points, grabbed the offensive rebound but missed a 13-footer.
"It was a really good shot and I missed. We had that second opportunity and we missed also," said Ilyasova, who had seven offensive rebounds. "Sometimes it happens."
The Bucks elected not to foul with 27 seconds left and Carter missed a layup, but the ball wound up in Barnes' hands when the buzzer sounded.
Milwaukee took a 68-53 lead on a 3-pointer by Jennings midway through the third but squandered it when Carter, Lewis and Jason Williams sparked a 20-4 run to give Orlando a 73-72 lead in the fourth.
"I am just glad to get out of here with a win," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "That team plays very, very hard and with unbelievable energy. We're very lucky to come out of here with a win tonight."
Milwaukee was also without Michael Redd (sore left knee) and top defender Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (left foot sprain). The missing players finally took a toll at the end.
"We got fatigued, you could see it. We had several breakdowns in a row," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "We just ran out of gas for a while and lost our focus."
Howard has 15 double-doubles in 18 career games against Milwaukee. ... Barnes said he planned to appeal a $20,000 fine handed down Saturday by the NBA for throwing a basketball into the stands following Miami's 99-98 last-second win on Wednesday. ... A Sesame Street production pushed the tip-off back 30 minutes. The Bucks' court and hoops weren't installed and ready for play until 2 hours before the tip.