It will be a tough task for Howard and the Magic to turn things around Saturday as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Orlando (15-10) has lost three straight and five of the last six following a 13-4 start to 2006-07. Howard, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per game on the season, is scoring just 10.3 points over the last three games, including 10 in the Magic’s 99-89 Thursday loss to the last-place club in the Southeast Division, the Charlotte Bobcats.
Howard, though, did add 12 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season.
The Magic committed 23 turnovers—their most in 16 games.
“You aren’t going to win any games turning the ball over like that,” Orlando coach Brian Hill said. “Their front line outworked our front line the entire evening. It’s tough to win games when the other team is working harder than you.”
Saturday’s game begins a three-game homestand for the Magic, who are 8-4 at home this season and have won nine of Cleveland’s last 12 visits since 2000-01.
The Cavaliers (14-8) have won four of their last five games, including a 106-84 win over the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday. LeBron James finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Larry Hughes scored a team-high 25 points in his second straight start after missing 10 games with a sprained ankle.
A 64-45 halftime lead allowed several Cleveland starters to get some needed rest heading into Saturday, which will be the team’s fourth game in five days.
James, who entered Friday averaging 40.3 minutes per game, played less than 34 against Seattle. There is concern about the amount of minutes the 21-year-old is playing, as he is averaging more than five fewer points than last season.
“It can wear on you a bit,” James said of the NBA’s 82-game schedule. “But you have to get through it.”
The Cavaliers are looking to win three consecutive games for the first time since a season-high five-game winning streak from Nov. 9-17. Since then, the team has gone 7-6 with five of the losses coming on the road, where Cleveland is shooting just 41.9 percent from the field.
“We know how good we can be,” Hughes said. “We’ve just got to keep it going.”
Cleveland won three of four games against Orlando last season, and has taken eight of 11 meetings overall in the series since the 2003-04 season.