Howard lets game do talking

By Jarrod Rudolph
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2009
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ORLANDO, Fla. - Dwight Howard's lack of touches was the big story heading into Game 6. The energy and effort he displayed in helping to extend the series to a deciding Game 7 will be the story line going into Sunday's game.

"He badly, badly, badly wants to get this done," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "When it doesn't go well, sometimes, that frustration will boil over. [Last night] what boiled over was his effort."

Following the disappointing loss in Game 5, the three-time All-Star criticized his coach for a game plan that he thought didn't involve him enough in the fourth quarter when the Magic squandered a 14-point lead. In Game 6, Howard backed up his big words with an even bigger game.

"He knew he had to come and make a great effort," Van Gundy said. "I think the reason Dwight made the effort tonight had very, very little to do with his comments and an awful lot to do with the fact that he feels great responsibility to try to get this team to advance."

In the biggest game of his young career, Howard had 23 points and 22 rebounds - his second 20-20 game of the postseason - to lead the Magic to an 83-75 win. He played with an energy and focus that had been missing the previous five games. For Howard, getting ready for Game 6 was simple.

"I just tried to be me," Howard said. "Me and coach had a great talk. He said just go out there and play and not worry about what's being said or written in the papers; just play and have fun. I woke up feeling good and I just tried to motivate myself all day and tried to come out tonight and play as hard as I can for my team."

The effort was most notable in the third quarter.

The game seemed to be slipping away from Orlando as the Celtics started the second half with a 9-0 run, putting Orlando in a 10-point hole. The Magic couldn't hit anything. Not a 3-pointer, not a mid-range jumper, not even a free throw (0 for 4 during the run).

Then Howard stepped up, scoring 10 of the Magic's next 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds, helping the team cut the Celtics' lead to 1 after three quarters.

"Whenever he plays like that it really gets our team going," Hedo Turkoglu said. "He had a great game to keep us going."

Howard said he learned an important lesson from his Game 5 tantrum.

"Keep my mouth shut," Howard said. "I can't let my frustration stop me from being who I am."

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