Dwight Howard got the better of LeBron James in their marquee matchup on Thursday, recording 22 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Orlando Magic to a 99-88 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Forwards Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu added 19 points apiece as the Magic took the first meeting between two of the Eastern Conference's top teams.
James had 23 points but was only 10-for-27 shooting from the field. Cleveland took a 56-55 lead into halftime but managed just 32 points in the second half to lose for the first time in five contests.
"We had to tighten up the defense (in the second half)," Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson told reporters.
"LeBron was getting too many dunks in the first quarter and everything they did was really easy."
Nelson scored 18 points on the day he was named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve - the first appearance of his career.
Cavaliers guard Mo Williams, who was coming off a career-high 43 points against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, had 12 points on just 4-for-15 shooting.
Cleveland are still without center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has missed 13 games with an ankle injury.
Howard scored four points during Orlando's 7-0 run to begin the second half and the Magic began the fourth quarter with a similar 10-0 spurt, leading 99-74 with 5:20 remaining.
The Southeast Division-leading Magic improved to 35-10 with the victory, and held the Cavaliers to 41 percent shooting in a strong defensive effort.
"I'm happy with the win. I'm happier still the way we got the win, doing it with our defense in the second half," said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
"I thought all five guys were right their assignments and we got great effort and showed great discipline."
Orlando has been bolstered on the defensive end by the return of athletic guard Mickael Pietrus, who played in his second game since missing 12 because of an injured wrist.
Despite the loss, Cleveland (35-9) sits a half-game ahead of Orlando in the overall Eastern Conference standings.
(Agencies via China Daily Feburary 1, 2009)