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Thunder Vs Magic Tickets
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One, two, four guys. It didn't matter how many players were draped on Orlando's Dwight Howard.

Using his remarkable power and speed, Howard dunked, blocked and dominated Seattle's undersized frontline for a career-high 39 points and 16 rebounds, and Howard's team beat the SuperSonics 110-94 on Wednesday night for their NBA-best 14th win.

No matter what combination Seattle used, it failed to stymie Howard. He was unstoppable against one defender and regularly powered through double-teams. Late in the game, Seattle used four defenders in the lane to try and slow Howard.

"The way Dwight was playing, they didn't have an answer for him," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said. "One guy couldn't stop him, two guys couldn't stop him, so they put everybody on him."

Howard made 12 of 17 shots, including nine dunks, regularly going over or through whoever was unfortunate enough to draw the assignment against him. That even included rookie Kevin Durant for one stretch, stuck trying to deny a passing lane to Howard with his lanky frame.

"Point blank, he is the most dominant player in this game right now, I would say," Durant said.

Orlando's Rashard Lewis struggled in his return to the city where he played nine seasons and grew from a skinny teenager into an All-Star. He cashed in on a huge contract with Howard's team last offseason.

Lewis finished with nine points and missed 16 shots, but his offense wasn't needed. He simply watched as Howard overmatched the Sonics - whether it was Kurt Thomas, Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene, Durant or anyone else drawing the assignment against the 21-year-old.

Howard topped his previous career-high of 35 points, earning his way to the free-throw line 20 times, making 15. It was his 14th double-double of the season and he added five blocks.

"My teammates did a great job of finding me," the soft-spoken Howard said.

Seattle lost its sixth straight and remained the only winless team at home in the NBA. The Sonics' 2-14 start matches the worst in franchise history. They began their inaugural 1967-68 season 2-14 under Al Bianchi. Seattle has lost 11 straight at home dating back to last year.

Durant scored 22 for Seattle and Wally Szczerbiak added 20 off the bench. But the pair combined to make just 12 of 41 shots.

"You've got to get over the hump and get it done. You've got to get wins on your home court," Szczerbiak said. "This is another learning experience for us, but we have to figure out how to turn these close games around."

Lewis was concerned about the reception he would receive, knowing how Seattle fans turned on Alex Rodriguez when the MVP left for his 10-year, $252 million contract with Texas in 2000.

He didn't need to fret.

Lewis received a warm ovation during pregame introductions, some in the sparse crowd standing to applaud as he jogged onto the court. He struggled initially, missing his first three shots, before knocking down a 3-pointer midway through the first quarter.

But Lewis was simply a complement on this night. Hedo Turkoglu scored 15 and Keith Bogans added 14 points, including three 3-pointers in the final 4 minutes as Howard's team fended off a Seattle challenge.

Carlos Arroyo had a career-high 14 assists and J.J. Redick score 11 points off the bench, his first points of the season.

"It's been strange ever since the plane landed," Lewis said of his return. "It was just a strange situation being here for the first time."

For much of the night, Seattle looked very much like a tired, lethargic squad that arrived back in Seattle at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning following a seven-point loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.

The Sonics continually settled for outside shots, showing little desire to move the ball on offense or keep Howard away from the basket on defense.

In the fourth quarter, Seattle started attacking the basket and suddenly pulled to 93-92 on a pair of free throws by Szczerbiak with 4:35 left.

But three Howard's team free throws and a 3-pointer by Bogans pushed the lead back to seven with 3:50 left. Seattle got no closer than five.

"We were trying to keep the ball out of Dwight's hands and try to make them beat us from the outside," Seattle coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "They did it."

  

 


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