When Dwight Howard has a poor game, he’s shown a propensity for bouncing back in a big way.
Howard was held to season lows of four points and three rebounds in Orlando’s 103-89 loss to Phoenix on Monday night. The third-year center, who leads the NBA with 12.6 rebounds per game, played only 19 minutes before fouling out for just the second time this season.
“It’s a new situation for me. I’ve just got to learn,” Howard said. “The next time we play them, I’ve really have to be careful about how they play defense and try and not get frustrated with not getting calls, and plays.”
It was the first time in 14 games that he was held under 10 points. After Denver held Howard to nine points and eight rebounds Nov. 15, however, he bounced back with back-to-back games of 20 points and 20 rebounds.
He had 24 points and 21 boards against Charlotte on Nov. 18, and 24 points and a season-high 23 rebounds against Memphis on Nov. 20.
The Magic are hoping he can produce a similar effort against the Raptors. Since a six-game winning streak, Orlando has lost four of its last six, including two of the first three on this homestand.
“Even Superman has his Kryptonite,” Magic guard Keyon Dooling said, referring to Howard. “There are going to be nights like this where he can’t catch his rhythm. And nights like that is where we have to pick him up. We tried to do it but that team right there, you blink and they can put 20 points on the board. They made a great run there in the third quarter.”
The Magic, 8-3 at home, play at Charlotte on Tuesday before returning to Orlando for a three-game homestand.
Orlando has won three of the past four meetings with Toronto at the Amway Arena, though the Raptors have taken four of the last six games overall.
Toronto, however, is mired in a four-game losing streak and has been unable to score more than 91 points in any of those games.
The Raptors lost 99-77 to Miami on Monday to drop to 2-11 on the road.
“We are going to have to play with some toughness,” Raptors guard Morris Peterson said. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody is going to get us out of this except for us.”
Despite the losing streak, Toronto is still only 1 1-2 games behind New Jersey for first place in the weak Atlantic Division.
The Raptors played perhaps their worst offensive game of the season against the Heat. They scored a season low in points, went 4-for-21 from 3-point range and shot just five free throws, matching the second-fewest attempts in team history.
Toronto is still playing without star forward Chris Bosh, who has a bruised left knee and didn’t make the trip to Florida. Bosh, averaging 20.5 points and 12.2 rebounds, is listed as day-to-day.
“Unfortunately, if you lose your big man, there are going to be some tendencies to change things but somehow you’re going to have to make up the slack,” Raptors forward Fred Jones said. “Chris was keeping himself involved, he kept trying to play and he injured himself even more. Now it is up to us to step up our game.”