Orlando can beat Charlotte in four straight games the way it did all they want. You don’t need Dwight Howard to ball hard against a team with no real inside scoring presence nor defensive presence.
You can chuck up all of those threes if you want, let Jameer Nelson be your go-to scorer, all five foot ten of him. The fact of the matter is that if the Magic want any shot at winning a NBA championship they need Dwight Howard on the floor and not in foul trouble. If he can get pushed around and coaxed into foul trouble by Tyson Chandler, Boris Diaw and Gerald Wallace imagine the problems he will encounter with King James, Josh Smith and Al Horford.
The Magic won this series basically with hot shooting from Nelson, Rashard Lewis and others as Howard never saw 30 minutes in any game in the series. In fact Howard’s series was beyond abysmal. He averaged 9.8 points per game and 9.3 rebounds and shot 13-35 from the free throw line. That’s half of his point per game total in the regular season and four boards less. What did skyrocket were his foul totals. Howard committed 22 fouls in the four game series while fouling out twice. It got so bad that teammates bestowed a new nickname on Howard, “Foul on You.” Talk about a name fitting of someone.
“It’s been frustrating, but everything happens for a reason. That’s the only way I look at it,” said Howard after a morning shoot around. The bright side for him and the Magic has been the play of his supporting cast.
The aforementioned Nelson averaged a team high 24 points a game in the series while Vince Carter and Lewis chipped with close 16 per game a piece. While scoring and staying in games was an issue for Howard defense most certainly wasn’t. Howard averaged 5 blocks per game including 2 games with seven plus. Yet still the focus has to be on Howard’s ability to not have himself removed from a game in key stretches due to foul trouble. “We watched, I think, nine clips, maybe 10 clips, just trying to get an understanding of what’s going and what their strategy is in the whole thing,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a very smart guy, but you’re in very difficult, very physical situations out there. He’s got to take a lot of hits and a lot of grabbing and holding. Obviously, he has to handle that in the right way.”
Which is very true, Howard is stronger than most players in the league and his aggressiveness does tend to get him in trouble. One problem could be the Magic’s lack of a true power forward to help take some of the physicality away from Howard. At the same time Howard should know his surroundings and play with a little more brains than brawn.
The MVP candidate that he and coach Stan Van Gundy have both pumped up have to return to form in the next series whether it’s the Hawks or Bucks. If Howard can’t stay out on the floor for more than 29 minutes against teams with more experienced personnel than the Magic won’t get back to the finals this year or beyond. Superman has to return and hope “Foul on you” doesn’t keep interfering.