Howard had a season-high 33 points and added 17 rebounds, helping the Magic beat the Detroit Pistons 116-91 on Wednesday night with some physical play in the paint.
"When there's times on the court when you got to be physical like that, guys don't back down on any challenge," Howard said. "That's what we have to do. We can't back down from anybody."
The reigning Defensive Player of the Year added seven blocks in a dominating performance that gave Orlando its 11th win in the last 14 games. Howard was 11 for 13 on free throws, a refreshing reprieve for the Magic from his normal woes.
"You can't play a much better basketball game than he did tonight," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Gordon was given a double-technical foul and ejected about halfway through the fourth quarter, extending his arm and hitting Redick near the face before arguing with the official. Gordon headed to the locker room with the Magic going ahead 96-83 on the free throws and essentially sealing the win.
It was unclear when Gordon, who did not speak with reporters after the game, sustained the cut.
"I thought we allowed the refs to get to us on a couple of calls in the fourth quarter," Hamilton said. "We had our chances, but they played well."
It was one of the few times this year when Orlando -- tagged as a finesse, 3-point shooting team -- showed signs it can be more physical.
"I like that our team is starting to be physical back," said Matt Barnes, who was called for a flagrant-one foul in the third quarter after he collided at full-speed as Jonas Jerebko tried to set a screen. "Early in the season, teams were trying to out tough us and out punk us and stuff like that. I can slowly see it changing.
"It's just a thing -- we're not going to be dirty, but we're not going to be pushed around. And I think we're changing that."
Howard may have sealed it already.
His alley-oop dunk on a pass from Jason Williams -- one of many on this night -- minutes earlier put Orlando ahead by 10 points, thwarting the latest Pistons' rally.
"Dwight did his thing," Pistons center Ben Wallace said. "We just couldn't stop him."
So much for an All-Star break hangover.
Howard, the Magic's only All-Star player, had consecutive alley-oop dunks on nearly identical plays in the opening quarter, with Nelson throwing an over-the-shoulder lob each time that Howard sliced down the middle to slam. Howard later got a rebound on the defensive end in the second quarter to start a fast break, then sprinted down the floor and took a no-look pass from Williams -- who looked right and threw left -- for a one-handed dunk.
"You have to be pretty off to miss an alley-oop to Dwight," Nelson said.
Hamilton hit a pair of 3-pointers to highlight a 16-3 Pistons push that briefly put them ahead, ending the half with Orlando leading just 56-55 despite the Magic shooting 57 percent before the break.
But Howard kept the Magic in control.
He sent a shot by Rodney Stuckey into the stands in the third quarter and then really started showing off. After taking a defensive rebound, Howard dribbled up court, spun away from Tayshaun Prince before dishing to Nelson, who was fouled on a layup attempt. Howard couldn't help but grin.
Orlando would go back ahead by 12 points but never could hold a lead. Detroit trimmed the deficit to six at the end of the third quarter with some potent outside shooting before collapsing in the fourth.
Howard's previous season high was 32 points against Indiana on Jan. 20. ... Pistons G Chucky Atkins was inactive because of a sternum injury. He is day to day. ... Wallace, a notoriously poor free throw shooter, air-balled one in the second quarter.
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