ORLANDO, Fla. — Fouled out and reduced to a spectator, Dwight Howard stood on the Orlando Magic sideline with one thought as he watched the Philadelphia 76ers erase another big lead.
“Man, I hope these boys don’t come back again,” Howard said.
They nearly did.
Rookie Courtney Lee had a career-high 24 points, Hedo Turkoglu added 16 and the Magic nearly blew another 18-point lead before beating Philadelphia 96-87 on Wednesday to even the series at a game apiece.
Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out, and Rashard Lewis made two big jumpers in the final minutes to help Orlando get its fourth win in five chances against Philadelphia this season.
“They want me to shoot the jump shot,” Lee said. “Knowing that Dwight’s so dominant down low, it’s up to me to make shots when he’s double-teamed.”
Andre Miller had 30 points, and Andre Iguodala scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half for the Sixers, who closed the gap to five points and almost erased the same deficit they faced in the series opener. Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia.
Howard and Lee led a second-half charge that seemed to put the game away.
The two played an inside-out game that highlighted a 16-5 third-quarter spurt, a series of put-back dunks from Howard and jump shots from Lee that overwhelmed Philadelphia. Howard soared high on a missed layup by Rafer Alston, reaching with one hand for a furious dunk to put Orlando ahead by 18 points midway through the period.
Just like the series opener, the Sixers would make a big lead disappear.
Philadelphia came within five points in the fourth quarter on an uncontested layup by Louis Williams after Lee missed a dunk on the other end.
“We feel like we had some opportunities,” Iguodala said. “They did all the little things. They did a great job of sealing the game this time.”
The Magic held off the Sixers after Howard fouled out with 3:11 left, with Lewis hitting a jumper to put Orlando ahead 88-79 after Philadelphia again came within five points. Just when the Sixers started to rally again, Lewis grabbed a big offensive rebound and converted the layup to give the Magic back an eight-point lead with 28.8 seconds left.ORLANDO 96
KEY: Rashard Lewis made two big jumpers in the final minutes to help the Magic survive the 76ers’ rally.
NEXT: Game 3, Magic at 76ers,5 p.m. Friday