For weeks, Orlando superstar center Dwight Howard stressed that this playoff run is about so much more than just himself or any inpidual player on the Magic. But after his Magic swept rival Atlanta, no player’s performance was more indicative of Orlando’s dominance of the Hawks than Dwight’s.
With a five-for-five shooting performance in Monday’s 98-84 close-out victory that put the Magic back in the Eastern Conference Finals, Dwight made an astounding 84.4 percent in the series against the Hawks. That’s the best shooting percentage ever in a seven-game playoff series, besting the 78 percent that Dallas center James Donaldson shot back in 1986.
Dwight finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots on Monday, but in all actuality the numbers were of very little concern to him. Instead, it’s the steady improvement, the staying focused and the pursuit of the championship that narrowly eluded him last season that matters most.
“We are on a mission,” Dwight said. “It’s not about the inpiduals with us, but instead what the team can do. We don’t care who gets the points, the rebounds and the shots because it’s just about winning.”
Dwight’s Magic now await the winner of the Cleveland-Boston series. The Cavs and the Celtics are locked in a 2-2 tie. The Magic’s next series won’t begin until Sunday at the earliest and Tuesday at the latest. Games 1 and 2 would be in Orlando if Boston wins, while the series would start in Cleveland if the Cavs survive.
“Both teams are really tough,” Dwight said. “One team (Boston) has three Hall of Famers and the other team (Cleveland) has LeBron (James), Shaq (O’Neal) and the rest of those guys. Whoever we play it will be a dogfight. But as long as we keep doing the things that helped us get to this point we should be all right.”
Dwight was much better than all right in this series, bouncing back nicely from a frustrating first round against Charlotte. He averaged 21 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots in the four-game romp and he kept Atlanta’s Joe Johnson (29.8 percent shooting) and Josh Smith (44 percent shooting) away from the rim.
“That first series was very frustrating for me because I committed a lot of stupid fouls and I didn’t do the dumb fouls in this series against the Hawks,” Dwight said. “This series I was able to stay on the floor, play hard and still be really aggressive.”