Birthday boy Howard leads Magic past Clips 97-86

LOS ANGELES: Dwight Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds on his 24th birthday, Rashard Lewis added 17 points and the Orlando Magic held off the Los Angeles Clippers for their sixth straight victory, 97-86 Tuesday night.

Jason Williams scored 16 points while hitting four 3-pointers for the Magic, who kept pace with Boston atop the Eastern Conference with their 11th win in 12 games. Thanks to a smooth fourth-quarter surge, the Magic also won their eighth straight road game, setting a new franchise record for a single season.

Eric Gordon scored 21 points and Baron Davis had 18 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, who had won five of seven before losing to the Magic for the sixth straight time.

Vince Carter had just 13 points — four in the final minute — for Orlando, which broke open a tight game with a 14-2 run that stretched into the fourth quarter. The defending Eastern Conference champions looked solid in their return to the building where they lost the first two games of last summer's NBA finals to the Lakers.

As usual, the Magic were led by Howard, who heard shouts of birthday well-wishes throughout the night at Staples Center. He frequently played up to the crowd, exchanging small talk and joking with officials — and several dozen fans waited to scream his name after the game, when he threw his jersey into the crowd.

The Magic won nine straight road games spanning two seasons in 2007. Halfway through a four-game road trip, Orlando will attempt to match that record Thursday night in Utah.

Chris Kaman scored 16 points and Al Thornton added 15 for the Clippers, who have beaten just two teams with winning records this season.

Orlando had its biggest offensive game of the season last Saturday night at Golden State, while the Clippers had their best defensive game of the year against Indiana. The Magic's success carried over more easily, with Orlando opening this game with a remarkable two-man offensive barrage from Howard and Lewis.

Howard made his first five shots, barreling past Kaman for more than one embarrassing dunk, while Lewis hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions midway through the period, drawing appreciative oohs from Clippers fans.

Neither star missed a shot until late in the first half, and Williams also hit three 3-pointers in the opening period to put Orlando up by 10. Yet the Clippers kept it close with balanced scoring while forcing turnovers.

Los Angeles took its first lead by scoring nine straight points in the third quarter, but Anthony Johnson put the Magic in front to stay late in the period, and Mickael Pietrus made a desperate 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds left as part of the decisive run.

NOTES: Davis came out of his right shoe while driving the lane early in the third quarter. ... The Clippers held Indiana to 72 points last Saturday night. Orlando had 73 after three quarters. ... San Francisco Giants left-hander Barry Zito attended the game. He lives in Los Angeles in the offseason.