|Howard trying to recover, Magic trying to regroup against Pistons|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2007 12:14|
Now the Magic need Howard's game to respond the same way.
The team's All-Star forward and leading scorer has eight baskets and 21 points in two games against the Pistons, one reason Orlando trails 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Thursday night in Orlando.
Howard, making his first appearance in the postseason, has been off in each of the first two games.
He had 13 points, 19 rebounds and three blocked shots in the series opener Saturday. But he added six turnovers and went 3-of-11 from the free throw line.
Howard hoped to improve in Game 2, but something he ate for lunch disagreed with his stomach. He was sick the rest of the day, unable to eat or drink and eventually lacked strength and stamina during the game.
``He clearly was not himself,'' Magic coach Brian Hill said.
The third-year player had eight points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes. Maybe more telling, he finished with no blocked shots and went to the free throw line just three times.
``After shootaround, I went back to the hotel and my stomach started hurting real bad,'' Howard said. ``I tried to work out before the game, but I couldn't really stand up and shoot or whatever. After that, it just went downhill from there.''
The Pistons contributed to his woes.
They double teamed him constantly, surrounding him with bodies, putting arms and hands in his face, slapping at the ball and trying to prevent the player who led the league in dunks this season from getting to the basket.
It worked to perfection.
In fact, the Pistons are so accustomed to flustering opponents with their defense they didn't even notice Howard was sick.
ay from you.''
Howard blamed his problems solely on the illness.
``It started hurting me a little bit more during the game, running and getting hit,'' Howard said. ``I just tried to play through it. I didn't really have a lot of energy out there. I just tried to play as hard as I could and try to do all I could for my team.''
It wasn't enough. The Magic trailed by 15 points early in the fourth quarter and lost 98-90 - falling to 0-6 against the Pistons this season.
Howard said he felt ``a lot better'' Tuesday, but Hill said he was still reeling from what the Magic believe may have been food poisoning.
``I still think there's some lingering effects from whatever it is, but hopefully by game time, he'll be fine,'' Hill said.
The Magic need Howard to play better to get back in the series.
Of the 80 NBA teams that have had home-court advantage and won the first two games of a seven-game series, 76 of them (95 percent) eventually won the series.
So Orlando knows the task is tough, especially since the Pistons tied a team record with 27 road wins this season. Detroit was the best road team in the Eastern Conference and third best in the league.
``We've been a great road team and we have to continue that,'' Prince said. ``Obviously, with the guys we have, when you hear the boos and the negative things ... from the fans, that just gives us an extra boost.''
The Magic hope to get an extra boost from playing at home.
They also hope to change the tempo of the game, getting up and down the floor more. And having Howard healthy again should help.
``The more we run, the more tired they'll get,'' Howard said. ``They're an older team. They're going to wear down sooner or later. We're just going to keep running.''