Dwight Howard Should Be a Key Factor in an Important Week for Orlando Magic

Kevin StanleyContributor IJanuary 28, 2010

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 22:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic looks at the basket during the game against the Sacramento Kings at Amway Arena on January 22, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Orlando Magic enter a two game home stand this weekend that could provide a huge momentum shift for the team and the Eastern Conference.

A national TV battle with Boston on Thursday and a Saturday night, Southeast Division showdown with Atlanta will offer a chance for the Magic to move closer to the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.

Right now, the Magic find themselves in unfamiliar territory when it comes to the past couple years. They sit in second place in the Southeast Division, looking up at the first-place Atlanta Hawks.

A horrid road trip dropped the Magic down the standings, but the last week or so has offered a slight bit of promise.

A key ingredient to the team's moderately improved play in the past week has been the eruption of Dwight Howard as a scoring force, while continuing to dominate on the boards and on defense. Dwight has been averaging nearly 24 points and 16 rebounds a game for the past five games.

As the team approaches two of its most important games in recent memory, certainly Howard will need to assert himself and stay out of foul trouble.

Of course, Howard's ability to assert himself is always dependent on the other starters to feed him the ball, which they've had problems with in the past.

In Dwight's two games against Boston this season, he has put up just nine and five points, respectively. His rebounding against the Celtics has been impressive, however, averaging nearly 18 off the glass in his two games against Boston.

The key against the Celts' could be getting the ball inside to Howard early and trying to get Kendrick Perkins into early foul trouble.

Perkins showed himself to be an admirable defender against Howard throughout the two teams' playoff series last year. While Perkins is a good defender of Howard, Dwight is certainly due for a solid game against the Celtics.

While getting the ball inside and forcing their hand against Boston's big men could be key, the Magic may just decide to live and die by the three-point shot again, which is the very mindset that put the terrible stretch a few weeks back into motion.

Against the Hawks, bench play coupled with a strong game from Howard could be an easy route to success. Al Horford is an undersized center who could be taken advantage of inside by Dwight.

Whether Dwight erupts this week will remain to be seen. However, it's certain that the Magic are in search of some standout wins this year. They have already dropped one game each against LA, Cleveland, and Boston.

One good sign for the Magic is that their nationally televised game against Boston is on TNT and not on ESPN. The team has struggled for the most part on ESPN/ABC every game this season, getting blown out by Denver and Portland, plus dropping a Christmas Day game with the Celtics.

Perhaps with the help of a solid playing Dwight Howard and an improved offensive mindset, Orlando can grab two key victories this weekend.


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