Howard, Magic thump finished Bulls

SportsBasketballAaron GrayDrew GoodenChicago BullsJoakim NoahTyrus Thomas

The Magic has clinched the Eastern Conference playoff's third seed. The Bulls have clinched a trip to Secaucus, N.J., for the draft lottery.

Players are acknowledging the difficulty in finding motivation at the end of a demoralizing season.

"It's tough, and anybody who says it isn't isn't telling the truth," guard Ben Gordon said. "We just have to be professional."

The palpable anger and embarrassment that dominated the scene after Tuesday's elimination loss in Miami ceded to another display of submissive defense. Just think what the score of this 115-83 debacle might have been if the Magic hadn't clanked 11 of 27 free throws.

"I don't really have much to say, so if you have questions, fire away," interim coach Jim Boylan said.

Asked if Tuesday night's stinging words from players constituted a "too little, too late" display of caring, Boylan said he agreed.

"Talk is cheap," he said. "It's action that needs to be picked up. Guys have to produce at a certain level. That's something we haven't done all year. To hang your head and regret it now is a little too late.

"We've lost our edge on the defensive end. We've lost our focus and concentration and intensity."

Dwight Howard's league-leading 67th double-double featured 30 points and 14 rebounds in 32 minutes. His five dunks ran his league-leading total to an astounding 258, including two spectacular ones in the fourth quarter over Andres Nocioni and Aaron Gray.

Howard got Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Gray into foul trouble. Thomas tallied a career-high five blocks in just 26 minutes.

"We didn't have enough beef around the basket," Boylan said.

Layups Drew Gooden missed his sixth straight game with a strained abdominal muscle. Boylan said he doubted Gooden would play Friday. … Magic personnel aired a video tribute honoring assistant Patrick Ewing, who was voted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last weekend. Players and coaches from both teams joined the standing ovation started by the crowd.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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