Howard looks to bounce back from his worst outing of the season, and the Magic go for their fourth straight win on Tuesday night when they host the Raptors for the first time since eliminating them from the playoffs last spring.
Howard was held to a season-low four points, and missed all three of his field-goal attempts on Sunday, but Orlando’s other starters scored at least 15 points apiece as the Magic (7-3) topped Charlotte 90-85. Orlando finished an undefeated three-game road trip, and won for the seventh time in eight games overall.
“We have to prepare ourselves (because) sometimes even (Howard’s) having an off night,” said swingman Hedo Turkoglu, who led the team with 20 points. “Tonight, we all just stepped up and did a great job as a group.”
Howard is averaging team highs with 21.3 points and 14.0 rebounds, and the center ranks among league leaders with a 60.3 field-goal percentage through his first 10 games. But he was shut down by the Bobcats, and played only seven minutes in the second half before fouling out for the first time this season with 3:18 remaining.
“Tonight just wasn’t my night,” said Howard, who was held without a field goal for the first time since Jan. 20, 2007. “I’ve got to be the catalyst, and I didn’t have it tonight. But I’m glad my teammates stepped up.”
If the Magic can continue to find ways to win when Howard’s not at the top of his game, their recent hot streak could easily continue.
“We played at a very, very low energy level, but we hung in and did some good things in the second half to get the win,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “This did give our guys some confidence … with Dwight not into the flow of things and sitting on the bench the whole time.”
Howard next faces a Raptors team he had plenty of success against in 2007-08. The All-Star averaged 23.3 points and 16.1 rebounds while shooting 66.4 percent from the field in eight total games against Toronto last season.
The Magic won two of three in the regular season-series before eliminating the Raptors from the first round of the playoffs in five games.
Toronto (5-4) is coming off one of its best performances of the season. The Raptors had lost four of five games before defeating Miami 107-96 on Sunday night. Chris Bosh had 27 points to lead seven Raptors players scoring in double figures.
Toronto showed its offensive depth despite the absence of point guard Jose Calderon, who is second on the team with 13.5 points per game and ranks among league leaders with 9.0 assists per game.
Calderon sat out with a strained right hamstring and was replaced by Will Solomon, who finished with 15 points and 11 assists in his first NBA start since April 6, 2002. Solomon had spent the last six seasons playing overseas.
“He knows what to do, he’s a professional,” Bosh said. “We were behind him, we gave him a lot of support coming in.”
Calderon, who was injured in Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia, is day-to-day.