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Howard, Magic send Bobcats to fifth-straight loss

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Dwight Howard made Orlando's 2004 draft
look smart.

The No. 1 overall selection last year, Howard had 21 points and
20 rebounds to lead the Magic over Charlotte 85-77 Tuesday night
and hand the Bobcats their fifth straight loss.

Orlando chose the high school standout over Emeka Okafor, who
went second to Charlotte and was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year
last season.

Howard finished third in the balloting, but has shown
significant improvement this season -- especially on this night
against Okafor.

"He's going to be a beast to contain," Magic forward Tony
Battie said. "He's good right now, but he's going to be great."

Howard helped get Okafor into early foul trouble. Okafor, who
entered the game averaging 13 points and nine boards, finished with
eight points -- all in the fourth quarter -- and six rebounds.

"Dwight played strong. I'm not really surprised," Okafor said.
"He's getting the ball more this year, just getting a lot more
touches, and he was authoritative with his moves."

Howard, who was 7-of-11 from the field and got his fifth
consecutive double-double, fought through leg problems before the
game and was just happy he could play.

"(Magic players) made a lot of jokes about how I had this game
on my calendar. I just wanted to get the win," Howard said. "It
doesn't matter how we got it, ugly or pretty."

Keith Bogans led Charlotte with a season-high 18 points off the
bench. No Bobcats starter scored in double figures.

"That unit, we're just not getting out of the gate," Charlotte
coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "I think there has to be a little
more focus, there has to be a little more professionalism."

Despite Howard's performance, Sean May made another Orlando
draft pick look pretty bad. The Magic considered taking the North
Carolina standout in June, but opted instead for Spain's Fran
Vazquez, who spurned the team to stay in Europe.

May finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Orlando's DeShawn Stevenson had 16 points and Steve Francis
added 13 points, five rebounds and six assists. Battie had 11
points and 12 rebounds -- his first double-double of the season -- in
the Magic's first home win.

Jameer Nelson scored 13 off the bench, including five points in
a 12-4 run in the fourth quarter that helped Orlando take control.

Howard also came up big, hitting a baseline jumper and then
adding a putback on consecutive possessions to push Orlando's lead
to 76-68 with about 7 minutes to play.

Nelson then drove the lane for a bucket and converted a
three-point play to make it an 11-point game.

The Magic failed to score in the final 3:04 of the second
quarter, withstanding a 10-point Charlotte run to hold a 47-46
halftime lead.

Howard had 15 points and nine rebounds at halftime, forcing the
Bobcats to double-team him after the break. That created several
open shots for the Magic.

"He's our Rookie of the Year. He's our guy," Battie said. "If
we were voting, he would have been the Rookie of the Year. He's
still 19. If you look back at all the players who came out of high
school, the transition was rough for them. It's going to take him
some time, but he's adjusting pretty good.

"He's getting a lot of training on the job. He's progressing in
all areas."

Game notes
Howard has four career games with 20 or more rebounds. ...
Orlando outrebounded Charlotte 50-37, helping the Magic overcome 12
missed free throws. ... Charlotte C Jake Voskuhl left with 11:28
remaining in the fourth quarter. ... Bobcats leading scorer Gerald
Wallace (right wrist) missed his third straight game. Charlotte C
Melvin Ely (sore shin) did not play. ... The Bobcats got their
first two-day rest after opening the season with seven games in 11
days.