ATLANTA - The Orlando Magic built a big lead, then held on to hand the Atlanta Hawks a rare loss at home.
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 19 rebounds, helping the Magic hold on for a 106-102 victory Wednesday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Southeast Division.
Orlando nearly squandered a 21-point advantage, catching a huge break when Mike Bibby missed a breakaway layup that should have pulled the Hawks within two points with just under 1 1/2 minutes remaining. The Magic went nearly 5 minutes without scoring in the final period, but the Hawks couldn't hit enough shots to complete the comeback.
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 21 points, but he missed all four of his free-throw attempts - the worst culprit in a 14-of-25 performance at the line that came back to haunt the Hawks at the end.
Atlanta lost for only the third time in 18 game at Philips Arena. The Magic stretched its lead on the second-place Hawks to five games in the first of a home-and-home between the division rivals. The teams meet again Friday night in Orlando.
The Magic could hardly miss through the first three quarters, shooting better than 55 percent. Orlando made 10-of-16 in the second period, a sharp-shooting display that Rashard Lewis finished off by banking in a desperation 3-pointer just ahead of the 24-second buzzer, pushing Orlando to its biggest lead of the half at 60-45.
Orlando stretched it to 76-55 on Courtney Lee's 3-pointer with just over 6 minutes remaining in the third and was up 86-70 heading to the final period.
Suddenly, the Magic went cold. The visitors were 5-of-16 in the final quarter and turned it over four times, giving the Hawks a shot.
Atlanta squandered too many chances to complete the comeback. Al Horford stepped on the baseline with under 2 minutes to go while trying to drive, ruining one possession, but the biggest blunder came after the Hawks knocked the ball away for what looked to be a sure basket.
Bibby took off the other way, all alone. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one was coming up - then missed the lay-in that could have made it 101-99 with plenty of time remaining. Bibby also missed a late 3-pointer to seal the victory for the Magic.
Every Orlando starter was in double figures with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. J.J. Reddick joined them by banking in a towering shot over Solomon Jones before the period was done.
Howard, playing in his hometown, recorded his 26th double-double of the season. Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu both scored 20 for the Magic.
Bibby scored 17 points but made only 6-of-17 from the field. Marvin Williams, coming back after missing a game with a sprained shoulder, added 16.
Notes: Atlanta G Acie Law wasn't at the game. Woodson said he was attending to a personal matter and could rejoin the team on Thursday. ... Hawks C Zaza Pachulia wasn't in uniform because of the flu. ... Orlando G Keith Bogans missed his second straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Orlando evened the season series at 1-1, the road team winning both games.