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19-11

76ers-Magic Preview

AP - Sports

Although Dwight Howard is pursuing a trade from Orlando, the star center has expressed that he wants the ball more late in games.

The Philadelphia 76ers take a different approach, using a team-first mentality while relying on a balanced attack, and that system seems to be working well for the Atlantic Division leaders.

Howard's Magic look to avenge last month's loss to the 76ers when they meet Wednesday night at the Amway Center.

Howard drew headlines following Saturday's 99-94 win in Milwaukee, telling Fox Sports Wisconsin that he wants to be the closer for Orlando (18-11) and that coach Stan Van Gundy needs to have confidence in him to finish off opponents.

It seemed like a somewhat odd request considering Howard is hoping to be traded. Not helping his case is his 49.4 percent mark from the free-throw line, which would be 19th-worst all-time for a full season.

Still, Howard defended his stance following Monday's 102-89 win over Minnesota despite being limited to 11 points and seven rebounds in 28 foul-plagued minutes.

"My point is I want to be the guy to carry the team," said the six-time All-Star, who is averaging a team-high 20.2 points and a league-best 15.2 rebounds. "I don't think that's bad. That's something I want to be. I want to be the guy in the fourth quarter who carries the team. Not just score the ball, but make great plays."

In Philadelphia on Jan. 30, Howard led all scorers with 17 points, but missed 11 of 17 field goals and 8 of 13 free throws as the Magic lost 74-69.

Neither team had much luck offensively, with the Sixers (20-9) finishing with season lows in points and field-goal percentage (37.5), while Orlando shot 33.3 percent and had just nine third-quarter points. Opponents typically have some trouble putting up points against Philadelphia, which has one of the league's top scoring defenses at 86.8 per game.

That defense is complemented by a balanced offense. Philadelphia has six players averaging double figures in points and another two with at least 9.0 per game.

The leading scorer is reserve Louis Williams, who at 15.9 points per game is on pace to become the first NBA player since Dell Curry of the 1993-94 Charlotte Hornets to lead his team in scoring without starting a game. Williams had 23 points - including two key 3-pointers in the final 6:11 - in Monday's 98-89 win at Charlotte, while fellow reserve Thaddeus Young scored 20 and Jrue Holiday added 19.

"We have this saying that you have a starring role on this team, no matter what that role is," said Williams, who is averaging 19.8 points in his last five games. "I've been able to do that and give us a spark. It's been one of my better years. I've been very pleased with the role I've been playing."

Against the Magic two weeks ago, Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 14 points, while Evan Turner chipped in 12.

The loss in Philadelphia was the fourth in a row for the Magic, but they've won six of eight since with both defeats coming in overtime.

Jason Richardson, who was out against the Sixers with a knee injury, has been instrumental to the turnaround. He is averaging 18.1 points on 48.9 percent shooting in seven games since sitting out two in a row after averaging 7.8 points on 37.3 percent shooting in his previous six.

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