ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dwight Howard laughs at the idea his demeanor has changed dramatically.
"One year, I'm smiling too much," he said. "Now I'm the bad boy."
Orlando Magic will take the good with the bad for now.
Howard also picked up his NBA-leading 12th technical foul - he'll be suspended for one game if he gets 16, then an additional game for every two technical fouls after that - with more than half the season remaining. The NBA has tried to crack down on players arguing or overreacting this season.
But Magic coach Stan Van Gundy believes his star center is being singled out.
"I don't think he's any harder on officials than anybody else in the league," Van Gundy said. "I don't think even think he's one of the hardest guys on officials, quite honestly. I could probably give you 20 guys who are a lot harder on officials than he is. Why he's been the guy to get all the technicals, I don't know. But there are a lot of guys around the league who are a lot harder on officials, yell at them, swear and everything else and get away with it."
Well, not everybody.
Stoudemire finished with 30 points, four rebounds and four assists -- and received his 10th technical foul -- but got into foul trouble early in a matchup of two of the NBA's best big men. Both never shied away from contact and showed more offensive prowess than defensive pressure.
"I thought we were really feeding off each other," Stoudemire said. "If I didn't get in foul trouble, it would have been a different game for sure."
Howard also had more help.
J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson had 14 points apiece, helping the Magic build a 20-point lead before halftime and hold on late. New York trimmed the deficit to two in the fourth quarter before the Magic pulled away for good.
This was the first meeting in the season series between the teams; their Nov. 2 game at Madison Square Garden was postponed because of safety concerns after debris fell into the arena during overnight cleaning of asbestos-related materials. The Magic were already in New York and had to fly back.
Maybe it was worth the wait.
Howard grabbed his own rebound late in the game and dunked over Stoudemire, who was late getting over to the play. Stoudemire answered on the next possession, converting a three-point play over Howard to cut Orlando's lead to 98-96 and pumping his chest in celebration.
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A few plays later, Hedo Turkoglu made a 3-pointer over Stoudemire. Then Howard hit a pair of free throws and Orlando was ahead by nine with a minute left. And just for an exclamation point, Howard added a three-point play over Stoudemire in the final minute that brought fans to their feet.
"It was fun to watch those two," Magic forward Ryan Anderson said.
The two big men seemed to rise to the challenge and weren't shy about being physical.
Howard was called for the technical foul in the first quarter for arguing with officials. At one point, Stoudemire even shoved Howard in the post and clapped his hands after Stoudemire was whistled for a foul.
The words were often too much and officials did everything they could to control play. Stoudemire picked up a technical foul in the second quarter after banging bodies with Howard and taunting Gilbert Arenas.
"I told him to get that mess out of here," Stoudemire said. "And I got a tech."
After Stoudemire got his third foul with almost six minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Magic went on a 23-10 run led by Howard to go ahead 62-42. By the time New York recovered, it was too late.
Stoudemire also picked up his fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter to crush New York's rally.
"When Amare has five fouls already it's hard to get size out on the court," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Dwight Howard is going to be bigger in size so we have to figure out another way to beat team."
- Magic assistant coach and former Knicks center Patrick Ewing was asked before the game if anything had changed in his hopes of becoming an NBA head coach. "I'm still waiting on that call," he said.
- Stoudemire, who was a high school star in the Orlando area, was cheered during pregame introductions.
- Magic backup SG Quentin Richardson was sent home with flulike symptoms.