Magic-Bucks Preview

Dwight Howard is the Orlando Magic’s lone All-Star this season,

and the Milwaukee Bucks know all about the center’s exploits.

Orlando is hoping they can begin capitalizing on his production

again.

Howard looks to help the Magic rebound from another overtime

defeat Saturday night when they try to continue their success

against the Bucks.

Howard is averaging 20.9 points and an NBA-leading 15.4

rebounds, so it’s not surprising that he’ll represent the Magic

(16-11) when they host the All-Star game later this month.

Orlando, though, hasn’t been able to capitalize on his strong

play recently, losing twice on a three-game homestand with both

defeats coming in overtime.

Howard is averaging 25.3 points and 18.7 boards in that stretch,

including 18 and 18, respectively, in Friday’s 89-87 overtime

defeat to Atlanta.

“We just didn’t play very well, that’s the bottom line,” coach

Stan Van Gundy said. “We didn’t play very well, but we stuck in

there … We just didn’t get it done in the end.”

Howard’s presence in the paint has made a dramatic difference

for the Magic when they face the Bucks (12-14).

The Magic have won 10 of the last 12 meetings with Milwaukee,

and Howard is averaging 23.6 points and 13.6 rebounds in those

victories. He was out for the two defeats due to an injury and an

illness.

Howard continued that dominant trend last season with 25.7

points and 17.0 rebounds during a three-game winning streak after

Orlando lost the first matchup without him.

The Bucks are on the brink of tying their season-high three-game

winning streak, but could use another strong performance from

Brandon Jennings.

The point guard had 24 points and eight assists in a 113-112

overtime win at Cleveland on Friday, a night after he was miffed

about not being named a reserve for the All-Star game.

Jennings is trying to temper the firestorm created when he

stated that he’s already “doing my homework” on big-market teams in

an interview with ESPN.com. He’s under contract through next

season.

“It kind of got blown out of proportion a little bit. I never

said I was leaving. I’m not looking to be in any big market or

anything like that. I’m keeping my options open. After being in

this a couple years, I understand the business of basketball.

“I’m still going to be here playing hard every night and my

focus is to get into the playoffs.”

Jennings was criticized for not doing that in Milwaukee’s last

home game Tuesday, scoring a season-low three points and only

putting up four shots in 28-plus minutes in a 107-105 loss to

Phoenix.

”I just got in and talked to him,” coach Scott Skiles said

after the loss. ”He looked a bit disconnected. I’m not sure

why.”

That certainly wasn’t the case in the Magic’s last visit on

March 16, when Jennings scored 23 points and handed out eight

assists in a 93-89 overtime loss.

Drew Gooden is providing Jennings with some offensive help,

averaging 22.0 points over the last four games – nearly 10 higher

than his season production.

The forward-center averages 15.5 points in 17 career meetings

with the Magic, scoring 18 in a 78-72 loss at Orlando on April

5.

The Bucks and Magic will face each other four times over the

next three weeks.