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News » Thunder-Magic Preview

Thunder-Magic Preview

Thunder-Magic Preview
With his ability to dominate on both ends of the court, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard is arguably the best post player in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder would not be the team to argue he isn't.

Howard looks to lead the Southeast Division-leading Magic to their 11th win in 13 games on Friday when they host the Thunder, who were manhandled by the two-time All-Star three weeks ago.

With the team's backcourt banged up, Howard has taken charge in Orlando (14-5). He had 23 points and 14 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double in Wednesday's 100-89 win over Minnesota - the Magic's 10th victory in 12 games.

Howard, who leads the league in rebounds (14.0 per game), blocked shots (4.0 per game) and double-doubles (15), had the best game of his career in Orlando's 109-92 win at Oklahoma City (2-17) on Nov. 12.

The 6-foot-11 center recorded his first career triple-double with 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots. In the process, he became the first player with at least 30 points and 10 blocks in a game since Houston's Hakeem Olajuwon had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks against Dallas on April 13, 1996.

"You can't dominate a game much more than that," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after Howard's performance against the Thunder.

Howard has recorded a double-double in each of his last seven games against the Oklahoma City franchise, averaging 21.4 points and 14.7 rebounds while shooting 63.4 percent in those contests.

The Magic have defeated the Oklahoma City franchise six straight times by an average margin of 14.0 points since a 113-104 loss at Seattle on Jan. 11, 2006.

While Orlando has been without its top three guards for the past week, two of them could return for this game.

Point guard Jameer Nelson, who has been sidelined with a strained hip flexor, expects to be back in the lineup Friday. Top reserve Keith Bogans, who is recovering from a broken thumb, could also return. Starting shooting guard Mickael Pietrus is expected to miss three more weeks with torn thumb ligaments.

"We didn't have a lot of injuries in the past few years, so we didn't get to see what our young guys can do," Magic general manager Otis Smith said. "If you're going to have injuries in this league, it's best to have them early."

Nelson had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the win over the Thunder earlier this season.

Oklahoma City ended a franchise record-tying 14-game losing streak Saturday at Memphis, but failed to sustain the momentum, losing 103-97 at Charlotte on Wednesday.

The Thunder shot a season-high 54.5 percent from the floor, but turned the ball over 19 times leading to 24 points for the Bobcats.

"We didn't do a good job of taking care of the ball," interim coach Scott Brooks said. "We've got to get better with that."

Oklahoma City's defense has been struggling, allowing at least 100 points in 12 of the last 13 games. Orlando, meanwhile, is 10-0 when scoring at least 100.

Thunder leading scorer Kevin Durant missed last month's meeting with the Magic due to a sore left ankle, but is healthy this time. He scored 24 points in Wednesday's loss.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 5, 2008


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