Philadelphia 76ers guard Andre Miller (7) gets past Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) for a shot in the first half of a first-round NBA playoff game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday.AP PHOTO
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic built a big lead and avoided another meltdown — barely.
Rookie Courtney Lee had 24 points, Hedo Turkoglu scored 16 and the Magic blew another 18-point lead before beating the Philadelphia 76ers 96-87 on Wednesday night to even the series at a game apiece.
Dwight Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds but fouled out late, and Rashard Lewis made a pair of big jumpers in the final minutes to help Orlando get its fourth win in five chances against Philadelphia this season.
Andre Miller had 30 points, and Andre Iguodala scored 20 of his 21 points in the second half for the Sixers, who closed the gap to 5 points and almost erased the same deficit they faced in the series opener. Game 3 is Friday in Philadelphia.
Howard and Lee led a second-half charge that seemed to put the game away.
The two played an inside-out game that highlighted a 16-5 third quarter spurt, a series of put-back dunks from Howard and jumpshots from Lee that overwhelmed Philadelphia. Howard soared high on a missed layup by Alston, reaching with one hand for a furious dunk that he finished with a roar to put Orlando ahead by 18 points midway through the period.
But just like the series opener, the Sixers would make that lead disappear.
Philadelphia came within five points in the fourth quarter on an uncontested layup by Louis Williams after Lee missed a dunk on the other end. Almost as stunned as they were at the end of Game 1, the home fans were silenced, some covering their mouths in disbelief.
This time, they can breath easy.
The Magic held off the Sixers after Howard fouled out with 3:11 remaining, with Lewis hitting a jumper to put Orlando ahead 88-79 after Philadelphia again came within five points. Just when the Sixers started to rally again, Lewis grabbed a big offensive rebound and converted the layup to give the Magic back an 8-point lead with 28.8 remaining.
That lead would finally stick.
The 18-point lead the Magic lost in the opener was the biggest lead they blew all season, topping the loss on Halloween night to Memphis when they were ahead by 15 points. The Magic improved to 21-4 this season in games after a loss.
Philadelphia now heads home in the same position as a year ago, when it lost to a heavily favored Detroit team in six games.
The Sixers started right where they left off Game 1.
Miller made six of his first seven shots and scored 13 points in the first quarter, silencing the white-towel waving Magic fans early. He converted a three-point play after a foul on Howard to put the Sixers ahead 17-10.
Then the Magic began to roll.
Orlando ran off nine straight points, capped by a two-hand dunk by Howard on a fast-break pass zipped down the middle from Anthony Johnson. The Sixers started to lose their cool during the Magic’s run.
Samuel Dalembert was whistled for a technical foul for arguing after he was called for a foul on Howard. Theo Ratliff was called for a breakaway foul on Lee, and Turkoglu made a pair of free throws after Iguodala reached in on his shot attempt.
The result was a 9-3 run that gave Orlando a nine-point lead.
Notes: Howard showed no effects after being inadvertently scratched in the eyes by Sixers center Samuel Dalembert in Game 1. ... Philadelphia has not won a playoff series since beating New Orleans in the first round in 2003. ... Tiger Woods was again at his courtside seat across from the Sixers’ bench. Woods is a central Florida resident and usually only attends the biggest Magic games.