'Super' Magic lead 2-0
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
ORLANDO, Fla. — Maybe all the Orlando Magic needed after a slow start was a slap in the face.
Dwight Howard came back from a bloody nose to finish with 29 points and 17 rebounds, and the Magic beat the Atlanta Hawks, 112-98, last night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Not even a hard hit could slow the Magic's Superman.
"I'm human. It's not like I'm built of metal," Howard said. "They did to me like they did the Wolverine. I bleed. I break bones."
Not this time.
Vince Carter had 24 points with some big shots late and Rashard Lewis finished with 20 points, leading Orlando's 19-2 run in the fourth quarter. The perennially poor free-throw shooting Howard also was 13 for 18 from the line.
"Every time I step up there," Howard said, "just believing it was going in."
The Hawks avoided embarrassment but not another road playoff loss.
After a 43-point defeat in the opener, the Hawks led early but head home still searching for a way to stop the Magic's 12-game winning streak. Al Horford led Atlanta with 24 points, and Joe Johnson had 19 points.
Game 3 tomorrow in Atlanta.
"Go home and win. We've been pretty good on our floor," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "They took care of their business on their home floor. We're going to see what we're made of."
The Hawks drew first blood, it just wasn't a hard enough hit.
Howard made a layup as he was slapped in the face inadvertently by Horford to start the third quarter, the blood pouring from the Magic center's nose. Howard shot the free throw — and missed — with plugs in his nostrils, holding back laughter, and then left for about 2 minutes so trainers could stop the bleeding.
"I think he held his composure well," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He took some hard hits on the offensive end of the floor, that's led to some frustration and at times retaliation on his part. He got hit damn hard tonight, blows that would have dropped a lot of people, certainly me."