These teams will meet for the second time this season Saturday night after Howard easily got the best of Lopez with a physical display in the first matchup.
Orlando (5-3) may be happy to be on the road after losing two straight at home, including Friday’s 110-106 defeat to lowly Toronto. The Magic allowed both opponents to shoot 50.0 percent in the consecutive defeats.
“It looks like we can’t run the plays defensively, like people are just too quick for us,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We get beat off the dribble … and beat off the dribble … our defense is really disturbing.”
Orlando cruised to a 105-90 victory over New Jersey (3-5) on Nov. 5 as Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds. Lopez missed his first 13 shots, and finished with 10 points and five rebounds before emerging from the locker room with a slight bruise under his right eye.
“It didn’t get there by itself,” Lopez said after the game.
Both players are listed at 265 pounds, but that wasn’t evident as Howard pushed Lopez around as the Magic beat the Nets for the fourth straight time and eighth in nine matchups.
“He probably just had an off night,” said a smiling Howard about Lopez’s effort.
Lopez is enduring a difficult stretch in which he is averaging 11.8 points on 28.8 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds over his last five games. The third-year center had four points and six rebounds in Wednesday’s 95-87 win at Cleveland.
“You go through lulls like this,” point guard Devin Harris(notes) said. “He is still young. He is just realizing what it’s like to be the number one option and have guys try to take you away. It’s been a tough couple games but I have total confidence that he is going to bounce back and be the guy we need him to be.”
Howard had 25 points and eight boards Friday. He’s averaging 21.4 points and 13.1 rebounds in eight head-to-head meetings with Lopez, who has put up 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in those games.
Nets forward Troy Murphy(notes) missed Wednesday’s game with a foot injury and will be a game-time decision. Second-year swingman Terrence Williams(notes) will likely miss a third straight game with an abdominal strain.
“Tonight felt like Game 7 of a series,” said Humphries, who didn’t know he would start for Murphy until just before tip-off. “We needed a win.”
New Jersey has lost three straight at home after opening 2-0 in Newark.
Orlando is completing its third set of back-to-back games, going 1-1 in the second halves of the first two.