Howard hopes to bounce back from a poor outing and take advantage of the Knicks again on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, where the Magic look to complete a four-game sweep of the season series.
Orlando (48-28) owns three double-digit wins against the Knicks (20-56) and can sweep them for the first time since going 4-0 in 2001-02.
Howard is a major reason for that success with three of his NBA-high 65 double-doubles against New York. He’s averaging 21.3 points and 17.7 boards in the three games facing the Knicks and has six straight double-doubles against them.
Howard wasn’t much of a factor Saturday, but Turkoglu and Lewis both came through in a 101-86 win at Cleveland that clinched the No. 3 seed in the East for Orlando. Turkoglu scored 23 points and Lewis added 21 for the Magic, who trailed by eight points at halftime before using a 32-14 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter to notch their franchise-record 25th road win.
“We came out with a lot more energy,” Howard said. “We just played harder than they did. “
Turkoglu and Lewis helped make up for Howard, who had only four points on 1-of-8 shooting for his second-lowest output of the season.
Although Orlando has won 48 games and the Southeast Division title, coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t feel his team is getting much respect.
“If you listen to what the experts are saying, all the teams are jockeying to play us,” Van Gundy said.
New York is playing its first home game since naming Donnie Walsh president of basketball operations on Wednesday. The Knicks completed an 0-5 road trip with Friday’s 118-110 loss at New Orleans.
“We fought the whole game and guys played good,” Randolph said. “Just towards the end, Chris (Paul) took over, hit big shots and we couldn’t bounce back.”
Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has been booed constantly during home games, but isn’t worried about the status of his job with Walsh in charge.
“Our job is to do what’s best for the Knicks organization and make it better,” Thomas said. “Whatever he needs and whatever he wants, we’ll do.”
The Knicks have lost 17 of their last 19 games, with both wins coming against league-worst Miami.