Orlando (6-3) at Charlotte (3-5)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Charlotte, NC
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 5:30 pm EST Sun Nov 16, 2008
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Four years ago, the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats owned the top two picks in the NBA draft - and the opportunity to greatly shape their respective futures.

The selection of Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick has helped Orlando emerge as a contender in the Eastern Conference, while the Bobcats are still struggling after picking Emeka Okafor.

Howard looks to lead the Magic to their seventh win in eight games Sunday when they visit Okafor and the Bobcats.

Howard led Orlando (6-3) to the Southeast Division title last season - its first division crown since 1998-99 - and has helped the Magic get off to a fast start this season.

After finishing with 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocked shots for his first career triple-double in the Magic’s 109-92 win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Howard had 18 points and 13 boards in Friday’s 102-100 victory at Dallas. The two-time All-Star is averaging 27.0 points and 16.8 rebounds in his last four games, and has helped Orlando win six of seven after starting the year 0-2.

Orlando didn’t play particularly well overall against the Mavericks, as it shot only 38.8 percent from the floor and was outrebounded 54-37, but it managed to rally from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. Rashard Lewis scored a team-high 23 points, including the tying and go-ahead free throws with 10.9 seconds left.

“We didn’t do much well,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “What we did was hang in there and made plays at the end. To get this win says a lot about our team. I’m as proud as I’ve been of them all year.”

The Magic won three of four meetings with the Bobcats (3-5) last season, as Howard averaged 26.5 points and 19.3 rebounds while shooting 63.6 percent from the field.

Okafor averaged 9.8 points and 11.5 rebounds in those head-to-head matchups.

Howard’s 19.6-scoring average against Charlotte is his highest against any opponent, and he has recorded 15 straight double-doubles against the Bobcats.

While the Magic are aiming for their third straight playoff appearance, the Bobcats have finished fourth in the Southeast in each of their first four seasons in the league as Okafor has failed to live up to expectations.

The No. 2 pick of the 2004 draft is averaging 5.0 points and 7.0 boards while shooting 31.6 percent in his last three games.

In Charlotte’s 104-96 victory over short-handed Utah on Friday, Okafor played only 8 minutes in the first half, and finished with six points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes.

Bobcats leading scorer Jason Richardson (17.6 points per game) missed Friday’s game with a knee injury. Raymond Felton led the way with 23 points and Gerald Wallace added 22 to help Charlotte make up for Richardson’s absence and win for the second time in six games.

While Okafor had another rough game, Adam Morrison - the No. 3 pick in the 2006 draft - appears to be turning things around after missing all of last season because of a knee injury.

He had 15 points off the bench against the Jazz, giving him 31 in his last two games.

“I’m feeling a lot better. My body is starting to come back,” Morrison said. “I’m starting to find my role on this team.”

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Sunday, Nov 16