The Indiana Pacers found out last week just how much Howard can dominate.
Howard looks to continue his exceptional play and lead the surging Magic to their ninth win in 10 games on Saturday when they host the struggling Pacers.
Howard leads the league in rebounds (13.5 per game) and blocked shots (3.9 per game), helping first-place Orlando (12-4) open a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Atlanta in the Southeast.
On Thanksgiving, Howard had 26 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks as the Magic defeated Washington 105-90 to win their third straight and eighth in nine games.
Howard toyed with the Wizards early - scoring 14 points and grabbing nine rebounds in the first 8:45 as the Magic took a 25-11 lead.
“Our thing is we have to come out strong and let teams know how the game is going to be played the whole night,” Howard said.
“We’ve got to be able to do that every night to be a great team. Look at the teams like the Celtics and the Lakers, they come out the first quarter and they dominate and set the tone. We have to continue to do that in order to be one of those teams.”
Orlando got off to a slow start in last Friday’s game at Indiana (6-9) as it fell behind 34-28 after the first quarter, but Howard came up strong with the game on the line.
The two-time All-Star blocked Rasho Nesterovic’s potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, then swatted Troy Murphy’s layup in the final minute of overtime and altered what would have been T.J. Ford’s game-tying shot in the closing seconds of the extra period. The Magic escaped with a 100-98 victory, as Howard finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks.
“He’s huge. He’s really helping for all of us for playing better because it’s so hard to guard him one-on-one out there,” said Hedo Turkoglu, who had 20 points and a season-high 10 rebounds on Thursday.
Turkoglu, who is averaging 16.9 points, really struggled against Indiana last week, connecting on 1-of-13 from the floor to finish with a season-low three points.
Rashard Lewis scored 23 points versus the Pacers, and made what turned out to be the game-winning basket, a long baseline jumper with 23 seconds left in overtime.
The Magic have won three straight over the Pacers since a 115-109 loss on Dec. 7.
Indiana lost to Charlotte 115-108 in overtime on Friday, and has dropped six of its last eight.
“We must put this behind us and string some (victories) together,” said Marquis Daniels, who had 20 points and eight rebounds against the Bobcats. “This is no fun.”
Danny Granger had a season-high 35 points on 14-of-21 shooting on Friday, but the rest of the Pacers shot 34.7 percent (26-of-75).
Granger, fifth in the league in scoring with 24.0 points per game, had 21 in the loss to the Magic last week while Daniels led the Pacers with 25.