Howard's Way: Orlando Eliminates TorontoDwight Howard scored 21 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Orlando Magic defeated the Toronto Raptors 102-92 to win their first round series four games to one. This is Orlando's first playoff series victory since 1996. Howard is rapidly making it clear that he is the dominant low post force in the NBA. During the regular season, Howard shot .599 from the field (third in the league) while averaging 20.7 ppg (21st in the league), 14.2 rpg (first in the league) and 2.2 bpg (fifth in the league). Some players put up good regular season statistics only to disappear in the playoffs but Howard increased his numbers across the board versus the Raptors, shooting .638 from the field while averaging 22.6 ppg, 18.2 rpg and 3.8 bpg. Howard had three 20-20 games, becoming the first player to do that in one series since Wilt Chamberlain accomplished this feat versus the Knicks in the 1972 NBA Finals. Since the NBA began recording blocked shots in 1973-74 this is just the fourth time that a player averaged at least 22 ppg, 18 rpg and 3 bpg in a playoff series; Moses Malone did it for Houston in the first round in 1979 and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it once as a Laker (1977) and once as a Buck (1974).
Here is the scariest stat of all about Howard: he is just 22 years old. That means that he has the potential to improve for several more seasons and then to continue to be dominant for several more seasons after that. The Magic most likely will not win a championship until they find a legitimate power forward to take some pressure off of him down low but they are already a dangerous team with Jameer Nelson at point guard, Rashard Lewis spreading the court with his three point shooting touch and Hedo Turkoglu--this year's winner of the Most Improved Player Award--proving to be a better all-around threat and fourth quarter closer than many people thought he could be.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:13 AM