|Magic leads series 2-0|
ORLANDO — Maybe all the 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 Hawks 112-98 on Thursday night to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Vince Carter had 24 points with some big shots late, and Rashard Lewis finished with 20 points, leading a 19-2 run in the fourth quarter. Howard also hit 13 of 18 free-throw attempts.
"Every time I step up there, just believing it was going in," he said.
Howard made a layup as he was slapped in the face inadvertently by Al Horford to start the third quarter, and blood poured from Howard's nose.
Howard missed the free throw with plugs in his nostrils, holding back laughter, and left for about two minutes to stop the bleeding.
"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."
The play started an 11-2 run that erased Atlanta's early lead and put the Magic ahead 62-59.
"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, blows that would have dropped a lot of people, certainly me."
A flurry of Magic 3-pointers sent the Hawks packing with another loss to their Southeast Division rival, which has won eight of the last nine games in the series, including the playoffs.
"We didn't play our best basketball in the first half, but we were still within arm's reach," Carter said. "In the second half we played like the Orlando Magic."
Not even a near-perfect night on free throws for the Hawks (30-for-31) could prevent another loss in Orlando, which moved two games away in the best-of-seven series from returning to the conference finals.
Horford led Atlanta with 24 points.
"We've been pretty good on our floor. They took care of their business on their home floor,'' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We're going to see what we're made of."
ATLANTA (98): M.Williams 2-8 5-6 9, Jos.Smith 6-15 6-6 18, Horford 9-13 6-6 24, Bibby 1-2 0-0 3, J.Johnson 5-16 7-7 19, Pachulia 0-0 0-0 0, Collins 1-1 0-0 2, Crawford 7-18 6-6 23, Morris 0-1 0-0 0, Evans 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-75 30-31 98.
ORLANDO (112): Barnes 2-3 0-0 4, Lewis 7-13 3-4 20, Howard 8-9 13-18 29, Nelson 7-14 4-5 20, Carter 9-16 4-4 24, Pietrus 4-8 3-8 13, J.Williams 0-1 0-0 0, Gortat 1-1 0-0 2, Anderson 0-1 0-0 0, Redick 0-1 0-0 0, Bass 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 38-68 27-39 112.
3-Point Goals—Atlanta 6-11 (Crawford 3-6, J.Johnson 2-4, Bibby 1-1), Orlando 9-23 (Lewis 3-8, Pietrus 2-3, Carter 2-5, Nelson 2-6, J.Williams 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Atlanta 45 (M.Williams 11), Orlando 42 (Howard 17). Assists—Atlanta 16 (J.Johnson 5), Orlando 16 (Lewis, Nelson 6). Total Fouls—Atlanta 29, Orlando 24. Technicals—Barnes. A—17,461 (17,461).
ainge fined: Celtics general manager Danny Ainge was fined $25,000 by the league for tossing a towel to try to distract Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson as he shot a free throw. The fine was for "an unauthorized distraction and for conduct detrimental to the game." Also, Cavs guard LeBron James tested his sore right elbow at practice and the team said he would not need another MRI, and Celtics big men Kevin Garnett (right foot strain) and Kendrick Perkins (right knee strain) were back at practice.
all-nba team: James and Howard were unanimous choices in All-NBA team voting by writers and broadcasters. Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade completed the first team. The second team: Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Amare Stoudemire, Steve Nash and Deron Williams. The third team: Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut, Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy.
around the league: Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, who has been out with a strained left calf, expects to play in Game 3 against the Lakers on Saturday. … Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas is scheduled to be released today from a halfway house, where he is serving a 30-day sentence for a handgun violation, visiting a nearby gym to work out, and playing pickup basketball games with some of the other 151 residents. "You leave him open, he's going to make it," said resident Tony Dorsey, serving out a probation violation. "He makes you a better player." … The Hornets met with Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau and former NBA player Mark Jackson about their coaching vacancy.