Monday, December 17, 2007

Dwight Howard leads Magic into AAC

The Celtics are stealing all the headlines, especially in the Eastern Conference, and rightfully so. But the team invading American Airlines Center tonight ain’t looking too shabby.

The Orlando Magic (17-8) currently leads the Southeast Division by a healthy three games. Dwight Howard has to be part of the MVP discussion. Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu are filling it up from downtown, and Jameer Nelson is running the point effectively when he’s not running his mouth.

You’d think the Magic would have the Mavs’ undivided attention.

“I haven’t watched any film on that team, so I don’t know how those guys are playing,” Erick Dampier deadpanned this morning. “I’m sure they’re a pretty good team, so we just have to go out and play the way we’ve been playing and hopefully we’ll come out victorious.”

Seriously, Dampier and Co. know what they’re up against, particularly inside. Saturday it was Houston’s Yao Ming, the best center in the West, and now it’s Howard, the top dog out East. Howard is averaging 23.7 points, 15.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

“It’s a different challenge,” Dampier said. “He’s a little bit more athletic than Yao. They throw a lot of lobs to him. He’s able to go up there and finish. He’s not as big as Yao, so he’s a little easier to try and push out of the paint.”

It can’t be that easy. Howard is a taller Amare Stoudamire pre-knee surgery.

“He’s playing on an MVP-type level this year, scoring inside, making his short shots, really a big presence on the defensive end clogging up the paint [and] running the floor,” Avery Johnson said. “Looks like he’s having a lot of fun.”

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