Magic benefiting from Dwight Howard’s new-and-improved post play

There’s no question that the Magic look like a revitalized and rejuvenated team since the addition of Rafer Alston. He’s got the Magic playing up-tempo again, maybe even a step faster than when Jameer Nelson had the reins. In Sunday’s blowout win over Miami, Alston had six points and seven assists in the first quarter as the Magic exploded for 39 points behind a barrage of 3-pointers. The game slowed down after that, but the Magic kept building their lead. And that’s because of the incredible post play we saw from Dwight Howard. Dwight’s running hook shot – where he takes two long steps parallel to the basket and floats the ball toward the rim with one hand – has been a work in progress over the past two seasons. It’s looked great when it went in, but many times the move just looked clunky and awkward. His steps were too long, and it seemed like Dwight threw the ball at the hoop, rather than shooting it. That’s changing. His hook shot is becoming a go-to shot. Dwight is playing like a polished veteran in the post – consistent, back-breaking and double-team forcing. Howard is enjoying the best offensive month of his career, at 24.5 points per game and 61 percent from the field. He’s averaging a career-high 12.8 free throws. In recent games against Charlotte (45 points) and Miami (32 points), Dwight looked unstoppable. And that’s not something that could be said very often about Dwight, as far as post-play goes. If the Magic expect to make any noise in the playoffs, it’s imperative that Dwight continues to score in the post. The Celtics pushed the Magic around in January by allowing Kendrick Perkins to guard Howard one-on-one. Howard couldn’t do anything against the wide-bodied Perkins, mustering a few fade-away shots and jump hooks on his way to 11 points. The way Dwight is playing now, no one man is going to stop him. It’s going to take a double-team. When teams double, it opens up the 3-point line for the rest of the Magic team. As long as Dwight Howard is drawing two defenders, the Magic can beat anybody.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily