ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Mired in a season-high losing streak, their offense struggling and shooting guard Jason Richardson slowed by a bruised knee, the Orlando Magic coaching staff made a tactical decision late last month when they decided a little rest might do their 31-year-old starter some good.
It seems they were right.
Jason Richardson scored 17 points, and Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu each added 14 as the Orlando Magic used a big second half to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 102-89 on Monday night.
Richardson, coming off a season-high 31 points in the Magic's win at Milwaukee on Saturday, did all his damage in the first three quarters against Minnesota before sitting out the fourth. He said afterward he was not hurting, but simply deferred to teammate J.J. Redick.
Redick had seven points in the final period, and led all bench scorers with 14 of his own.
"J.J. had it going and they just let him play it out, and he did a great job and hit some shots," Richardson said. "He had it going, so I didn't mind sitting out the fourth quarter."
Richardson said the two games he sat out Jan. 30 and Feb. 1 have reenergized him unlike a previous three-game stretch he sat out in mid-January with a bone bruise on his knee.
He is averaging 18 points per game in his seven games since then, up from the 9.9 he was averaging for his latest respite. The Magic are 5-2 since his return.
"It feels good," he said. "I wasn't healthy when I came back from the first time. I still had the bone bruise, but the competitive side wanted me to be out there and play. That's just how I am, I hate sitting down. Once I got those two days off, I really got the rest I needed."
While Richardson has voiced repeatedly his willingness to be the person the Magic count on late in close games, they didn't need him down the stretch Monday, hitting 12 of 30 3-pointers for the game and with all five starters reaching double figures. They also had just nine turnovers - only three in the second half - which kept Minnesota from offering any real threat in the second half.
Orlando has now won two of its last three games and earned its seventh straight victory over the Timberwolves.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy still saw things that continue to concern him
"We're making 3-point shots, enough of them, but we're not making 2-point shots and it's a real struggle right now," he said. "But when you only turn it over nine times, it gives you a chance. Twenty assists and nine turnovers - that'll work."
Kevin Love led Minnesota with 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 13 rebounds. The Timberwolves turned it over 18 times, which led to 17 Magic points.
Minnesota lost its fourth straight game, with its next opportunity to stop the skid coming Wednesday when it hosts Charlotte.
"You've got to go out and play," coach Rick Adelman said. "They're not going to stop this season because we've lost four in a row. We've been in games, but we just haven't been able to put one away."
Magic center Dwight Howard picked up his fifth foul early in the fourth quarter and could only watch as his team's 20-point third-quarter lead was cut to 90-82 with less than six minutes to play on a pair of free throws by Derrick Williams.
Orlando was able to bounce right back without their big man, though, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Redick and Nelson.
Turkoglu then took a miss by J.J. Berea coast to coast on the next possession and swished a jumper from the wing that made it 98-82.
The Timberwolves never threatened the rest of the way.
"We just have to stay together and really have a sense of urgency to win," Love said. "We have to continue to build as a team and right now we're not doing that. Everybody, including myself needs to step up. Coach Adelman and the coaching staff can only do so much. It's really on us to break the barrier and have a breakthrough with this team."
Howard drew headlines Saturday after a comment following the Milwaukee win Saturday that alluded to a desire to want the ball more late in games. He continued to defend that stance Monday after a foul-riddled night in which he finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
It only adds more intrigue to the daily soap opera that has followed him since a preseason trade request that continues to be on the table with the All-Star break and the March 15 trade deadline looming.
"My point is I want to be the guy to carry the team," Howard said. "I don't think that's bad. That's something I want to be. I want to be the guy in the fourth quarter who carries the team. Not just score the ball, but make great plays."
He insists that the comment is not a knock on his current teammates, though, and that he's happy with their latest resurgence.
"You look at the Lakers, Kobe (Bryant) is that guy," he said. "Carmelo is that guy for the Knicks. And Jordan was that guy for the Bulls. And that's what I want to be. I want to be great. Great players want to take that lead. ... That's what I want to do for this team. That's it."
Notes: Timberwolves C Darko Milicic was active Monday after missing four straight games with a sprained right ankle. ... G Luke Ridnour sat out dealing with what coach Rick Adelman said was a family matter. ... Richardson's streak of six games with at least three 3-pointers was snapped.
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