Going up against the shorter Drew Gooden and Tyrus Thomas inside, Howard made 9-of-15 from the floor and pulled down eight offensive rebounds. Rashard Lewis donated 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while guards Jameer Nelson and Keith Bogans each contributed 13 points for Orlando, which continued its domination of Chicago with its fifth straight win in the series.
Gooden scored 21 points and Andres Nocioni added 20 and seven boards off the bench for Chicago. Top-overall pick Derrick Rose scored 14 points in nearly 39 minutes of action. Ben Gordon donated 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, also off the bench.
Luol Deng struggled with just one point on 0-of-8 shooting in 25:47 of action.
Orlando kept Chicago in the contest thanks to some shoddy free throw shooting. A Rose runner and Gordon jumper cut the deficit to 93-92 in the fourth period before Lewis made just 1-of-2 from the charity stripe with 22.8 ticks to go.
Gordon then raced the floor and took an ill-advised fadeaway floater over the outstretched arms of Howard. The shot barely drew iron and Lewis made a pair from the free throw line with 10.9 seconds.
Despite the two makes in the final seconds, the Magic made only 21-of-31 from the charity stripe on the night.
Nocioni was then fouled shooting a three-pointer with 4.7 ticks to go, but he missed the first before making the second. He missed the third on purpose and corralled the rebound, but he missed a game-tying trey in the final second.
The first half was a tale of two quarters, and a microcosm of two teams with two very different offensive philosophies. Chicago jumped out to a 9-3 lead after three consecutive jumpers, but went cold for the remainder of the period.
Orlando netted the final 13 points of the quarter to take a double-digit edge. Bogans contributed seven in a row, six coming on a pair of treys, and Howard added some thunder with a slam and subsequent free throw. Hedo Turkoglu's free throw gave the Magic a 31-21 edge. The Bulls missed their final six shots of the period.
That stat quickly turned around midway through the second period. Pietrus' three gave Orlando a 40-26 lead, but the Bulls heated up from the perimeter. While Orlando grew its lead with a large rebound advantage, Chicago crept back into the fray with a barrage of outside shooting.
An 11-2 stretch cut the deficit to six points. A jumper and three-pointer from Gordon made the score 47-41. Gooden's hook shot cut the lead to four points, 49-45, and Aaron Gray's layup put the halftime deficit at 50-47.