Magic Host Nuggets

The Orlando Magic will go into the All-Star break with a comfortable lead in the Southeast Division, but coach Stan Van Gundy isn't satisfied by how his team - especially his star player - is wrapping up its play.

Dwight Howard and the Magic look to end a frustrating homestand on a positive note Wednesday when they try for their 15th straight home win over the Denver Nuggets.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Orlando -5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 218.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Orlando -5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Orlando (32-21) fell to 1-3 in its five-game homestand following a 118-111 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. The Magic, who had won seven of the previous eight, have struggled defensively during the homestand - allowing opponents to average 106.5 points on 49.8 percent shooting during the four games.

Overall, the Magic are giving up 100.8 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting.

The defensive struggles caused Van Gundy to bench Howard in the fourth quarter during Monday's tightly contested game. Howard, one of NBA's leading rebounders at 14.4 per game along with a team-leading 21.7 points, failed to break double-digits in rebounding for the second time in four games Monday, grabbing nine.

Van Gundy didn't shy away from calling out Howard, who will start Sunday's All-Star game.

"His focus isn't where it needs to be," Van Gundy said. "I don't think right now that we're on the same page to be quite honest. I think that his priorities need to be defense and rebounding.

"To me it's a matter of focus. His focus is on the offensive end. He gets discouraged when he doesn't get the ball ... I know the numbers prove that what we need him to focus on ... defensive rebounding, but that's not what he wants to do right now and so we've got a little bit of a conflict."

Howard agreed he needs to put in more of an effort defensively.

"I've just got to play harder," he said. "Being a leader, I've got to be the one who sparks the whole offense and defense, both ends."

Orlando looks to go into the break on a positive note against a Nuggets team it has beaten 14 straight times at home by an average of 14.0 points. Denver's last win in Orlando was on March 10, 1992.

Howard has averaged 17.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in seven career games against the Nuggets (32-19).

Denver, meanwhile, won its third straight and sixth in the last seven overall Tuesday with a 114-113 overtime win over the Miami Heat.

J.R. Smith scored 28 points - hitting a career-best eight 3-pointers - and Carmelo Anthony scored six of his 22 in overtime to avoid an upset against the NBA's worst team.

"We finished the game out," Anthony said. "That's what matters."

Smith, who is averaging 9.7 points, was coming off an 18-point performance in Sunday's win over the Cavaliers. He was 6-of-11 from 3-point range in that game.

"When he is that energized, it is something we can ride," coach George Karl said. "We did that tonight."

Denver hasn't won four straight since a six-game winning streak in November. Anthony is averaging 27.0 points in eight lifetime games against the Magic, whom the Nuggets beat 113-103 on Jan. 11.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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