The All-Star center will try to lead Orlando to another win over the Heat and help end their lengthy home win streak Sunday while snapping his string of subpar scoring performances in Miami.
Howard matched a season high with 25 rebounds and scored 24 points during a 104-98 overtime victory at home against the Heat on Tuesday night. After that win, he announced that he would take back his preseason trade request and remain with the team through this season.
Howard made an even bigger commitment when he chose to waive the early termination clause in his contract just before Thursday’s trade deadline, meaning he would stay in Orlando at least until his deal ends in 2013.
The next day, he scored a team-best 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting during an easy 86-70 victory over New Jersey in front of a grateful home crowd.
“Everybody feels at peace for now,” forward Glen Davis said. “Dwight did a really good job of following his heart and doing what’s best for him and this team. He believes in this team.”
The win was Orlando’s fourth in five games following a 5-4 stretch that began with a 90-78 defeat in Miami on Feb. 19. The Magic shot 36.5 percent during its only loss in the past four meetings with the Heat.
While it’s had success in recent matchups with Miami, Orlando (29-16) hasn’t won the season series since 2008-09.
One reason why may be that Howard has failed to reach 20 points in any of his last five visits to Miami, averaging 14.4 in that span. The only Eastern Conference city where he has a lower average over the past three seasons is Detroit (14.3).
The Heat are allowing just 89.3 points per game during their 12-game home win streak. It’s their longest since a 14-game run Jan. 22-March 16, 2007.
Miami (32-11), which has a four-game lead over Orlando in the division, is coming off a 1-2 road trip against the other three top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Heat avoided going winless on that trek by holding on for an 84-78 victory over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia on Friday.
Miami led by 29 points early in the third quarter but scored 25 over the final 23 minutes. The 76ers, though, got no closer than four points.
“It’s never good to give up a 20-point lead,” said LeBron James, who had 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. “But when you have to close out a game, it’s good to see you can keep the lead and win.”
Dwyane Wade was held to 12 points - his fewest in two months - and shot 6 for 16 but had a season-high 11 boards and six assists. He’s averaged 29.3 points on 58.0 percent shooting against Orlando this season.
James had 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting in Miami’s lone win in the season series, compared to an average of 18.0 in the two losses while shooting 12 for 35 (34.3 percent).
Howard has averaged 20.3 points and shot 62.2 percent versus Miami this season while averaging 21.3 rebounds, his best mark against any opponent.