The Atlanta Hawks tried whacking Dwight Howard across the arms and about the head, they bloodied his nose and sent him to the locker room and to the foul line. But none of it slowed down the Orlando Magic’s All-NBA center on Thursday night.
Dwight was a one-man wrecking crew in Thursday’s Game 2, hitting the Hawks for 29 points and 17 rebounds and the Magic pulled away from Atlanta late for a 112-98 win at Amway Arena.
Dwight’s work inside helped the Magic grab a 2-0 lead in the series and improve to 6-0 in these playoffs, making Orlando the NBA’s only undefeated team in the postseason. The Magic captured the first four-game sweep in franchise history in the first round of the playoffs against Charlotte and if Dwight has anything to say about it they could very well be on their way to another four-game rout of the Hawks.
Even after taking several hits on Thursday, Dwight sounded like a man on a mission – a championship-or-bust type of mission.
"I’m just trying to not let things like that frustrate me and not get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish as a team," Dwight said.
Dwight made a layup to start the second half as he was slapped in the face inadvertently by Al Horford, and blood immediately began pouring from the Magic center’s nose. Dwight shot the free throw with cotton plugs in his nostrils, and then left the game for 2 minutes so trainers could stop the bleeding.
"I’m human. It’s not like I’m built of metal like Wolverine," Dwight said. "I bleed and I break bones, but I just wanted to get back on the court as soon as possible. It hurt for a second, but I got back as quick as I could."
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy had nothing for praise at the maturity and poise that Dwight showed in the face of, well, getting hit in the face.
"I think he held his composure well," Van Gundy said. "He took some hard hits on the offensive end of the floor, that’s led to some frustration and at times retaliation on his part. He got hit damn hard tonight, blows that would have dropped a lot of people, certainly me."
The Hawks got a look at how things were going to go early on when Dwight hammered them inside for 18 points in the first 12 minutes. In the first quarter alone, Dwight made all six of his shots, drilled six of nine free throws and had five rebounds.
For the game, Dwight made eight of nine shots and 13 of 18 free throws. He became just the fourth player in the past 40 years to have at least 25 points and 18 rebounds in a playoff game while shooting at least 85 percent from the floor. The others to do it were Shaquille O’Neal (2006), Wes Unseld (1979) and Wilt Chamberlain (1972).