Magic-Nets Preview

If Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic are in a bad mood after

consecutive losses, that could be bad news for a struggling Brook

Lopez and the New Jersey Nets.

These teams will meet for the second time this season Saturday

night after Howard easily got the best of Lopez with a physical

display in the first matchup.

Orlando (5-3) may be happy to be on the road after losing two

straight at home, including Friday’s 110-106 defeat to lowly

Toronto. The Magic allowed both opponents to shoot 50.0 percent in

the consecutive defeats.

“It looks like we can’t run the plays defensively, like people

are just too quick for us,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We get

beat off the dribble … and beat off the dribble … our defense

is really disturbing.”

Orlando cruised to a 105-90 victory over New Jersey (3-5) on

Nov. 5 as Howard had 30 points and 16 rebounds. Lopez missed his

first 13 shots, and finished with 10 points and five rebounds

before emerging from the locker room with a slight bruise under his

right eye.

“It didn’t get there by itself,” Lopez said after the game.

Both players are listed at 265 pounds, but that wasn’t evident

as Howard pushed Lopez around as the Magic beat the Nets for the

fourth straight time and eighth in nine matchups.

“He probably just had an off night,” said a smiling Howard about

Lopez’s effort.

Lopez is enduring a difficult stretch in which he is averaging

11.8 points on 28.8 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds over his last

five games. The third-year center had four points and six rebounds

in Wednesday’s 95-87 win at Cleveland.

“You go through lulls like this,” point guard Devin Harris said.

“He is still young. He is just realizing what it’s like to be the

number one option and have guys try to take you away. It’s been a

tough couple games but I have total confidence that he is going to

bounce back and be the guy we need him to be.”

Howard had 25 points and eight boards Friday. He’s averaging

21.4 points and 13.1 rebounds in eight head-to-head meetings with

Lopez, who has put up 11.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in those

games.

Nets forward Troy Murphy missed Wednesday’s game with a foot

injury and will be a game-time decision. Second-year swingman

Terrence Williams will likely miss a third straight game with an

abdominal strain.

Kris Humphries replaced Murphy on Wednesday for his first start.

Humphries had 13 points and matched a career high with 18 rebounds

as the Nets ended a five-game losing streak.

“Tonight felt like Game 7 of a series,” said Humphries, who

didn’t know he would start for Murphy until just before tip-off.

“We needed a win.”

New Jersey has lost three straight at home after opening 2-0 in

Newark.

Orlando is completing its third set of back-to-back games, going

1-1 in the second halves of the first two.