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Nelson leads Magic past San Antonio

Jameer Nelson scored 24 points, and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 13 rebounds to help host Orlando beat San Antonio last night, 90-78.

Jameer Nelson scored 24 points, and Dwight Howard had 14 points and 13 rebounds to help host Orlando beat San Antonio last night, 90-78.

The Magic won for the seventh time in eight games.

Howard picked up his fifth foul halfway into the fourth quarter and went to the bench. That wasn't anything new for the Magic, who played the last two games with the All-Star center sidelined by a sore knee.

Rashard Lewis finished with 15 points, and Hedo Turkoglu had 11. The Magic improved to 20-6 to open a 4 1/2-game lead over second-place Atlanta in the Southeast Division.

Tim Duncan led the Spurs with 19 points.

The Spurs, down by 23 in the third quarter, used a 13-4 run to draw within six in the fourth quarter, but Nelson hit back-to-back baskets to give the Magic a cushion. The former Saint Joseph's standout scored 21 of his points in the second half.

The Magic will continue their bid for title-run credibility tomorrow when they host the Los Angeles Lakers.

The schedule was not kind to the Spurs, the oldest team in the league with an average age of 29. San Antonio lost at New Orleans on Wednesday night, and the Magic came out looking to run on the weary Spurs.

The Magic took advantage, outscoring the Spurs, 18-2, on the fastbreak in building a five-point halftime lead.

The Spurs shot poorly in the first half. San Antonio made only 28 percent of its shots. Guard Tony Parker made only one of 10 shots, and Duncan was 2-for-7.

Orlando went on a 10-0 run early in the third quarter to take a 54-31 advantage. The Spurs didn't get closer than six points in the second half. San Antonio, using a smaller lineup, cut it to 71-65 on Parker's free throws midway through the fourth.

The Magic have worked with an eight-man rotation much of the season, but injuries have forced them to dig deep on their bench. Nine players saw action against the Spurs, including seldom-used backup center Marcin Gortat.

Gortat had 16 points and 13 rebounds against Golden State last week in place of Howard. He had two points and three rebounds last night.

The Spurs (15-10) started 1-4, worst in team history, but won 14 of their last 20 games before last night.


* Memphis waived former All-Star Antoine Walker. The 6-9, 245-pound forward has not played this season.

He was acquired from Minnesota in June along with the draft rights to guard O.J. Mayo and guards Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric for the draft rights to forward Kevin Love, swingman Mike Miller, forward Brian Cardinal and center Jason Collins.

In his 13th season, Walker, 32, has averaged 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds in 893 career games. He played for Boston, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and Minnesota. Walker was an All-Star in 1998, 2002 and 2003.

* Utah forward Carlos Boozer had a second MRI on a quadriceps tendon injury that has kept the All-Star out of 15 straight games. Boozer had the exam yesterday and results weren't expected until today. He injured the tendon above his left knee Nov. 19 against Milwaukee.

On Wednesday night in New Jersey, Boozer told that he will definitely opt out of the final year of his contract.

* Monta Ellis has been transferred from the suspended list to the inactive list by the Golden State Warriors, who waived second-round draft pick Richard Hendrix to make room on the roster.

* Washington forward Antawn Jamison has a strained left thumb and could miss tonight's game against the Sixers. *