Dwight Howard Took Wednesday Night’s Game Personally

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Dwight Howard was an absolute monster on Wednesday night. Early in the game, it was obvious that Orlando’s plan was to get it to the big man. Orlando went to him on their first two possessions. Howard, who has had trouble getting the ball while in good position, got excellent position on Wednesday night. Howard had some difficulty finishing around the basket early and his teammates had some trouble getting the ball to him after the early stages in the first quarter, so Howard took matters into his own hands. He grabbed seven offensive rebounds and got to the foul line 24 times. Of course, a big reason for those free throw attempts was Jim O’Brien’s “Hack-A-Howard” plan. Howard made the Pacers pay by knocking down 16 of those free throws. Howard was not without flaws – he turned the ball over six times.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy liked what he saw.

"“I think he’s (Howard) working harder and I think our guys are really trying to get him the ball. And when he’s making free throws, it’s a lot easier to go to him. And it kind of foils the strategy we’ve been talking about, which is you fight him as hard as you can and if he gets into the paint you just hammer him.”"

Howard admitted that one of the reasons for his high level of play was due to the way Roy Hibbert played last time the Magic played the Pacers. Howard got into early foul in that contest and could not be aggressive with Hibbert. Hibbert took advantage – he scored 26 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.

"“He (Hibbert) was on fire (in their last meeting). I don’t know if you guys saw the game, every shot he threw up at the rim seemed like it was going in. He could have shot half-court shots and they would have gone in.”"

Things were different Wednesday night.

"“I told those guys before the game that it wasn’t going to be the same game that they had against us the last time we played them. I told them at shootaround today that I meant it. We came out tonight as a team and defensively, we had a lot of energy."

Howard told reporters that he had nothing against Hibbert but he took Orlando’s rematch with the Pacers personal.

"“I was not going to let that happen again. It was kind of personal tonight, not against him, but their team. They beat up on us last time and I didn’t like it.”"

Hibbert finished the game with 3 points on 0-2o-2 shooting and 3 rebounds and Hibbert himself complimented Howard.

“I have to take my hate off to Dwight who played very aggressively from the start. I knew from the start they were going to go to him. He did a real good job hitting his free throws.”

Van Gundy was very pleased with his big man’s performance.

"“Tonight, Dwight really used his quickness. He made it tough for Roy to get the ball where he wanted to get it. And I think that’s the way Dwight would like to play him all the time. He was able to stay out of foul trouble and do that tonight.”"

Van Gundy agreed that Hibbert must have given Howard some extra motivation.

"“Well, Dwight was ready to guard tonight. There’s no question about that. He’s got a lot of pride like most of these guys do. He knows what his own capabilities are and I thought that they worked very very hard down there tonight in the low post.”"

If extra motivation is what Howard needs to have big games like this, then he needs to find it every night.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)