By Tim Povtak, For NBA.com
Posted May 15 2009 10:25AM
ORLANDO -- It was during his rookie season that Magic center Dwight Howard first complained about not getting the ball enough, not getting any plays called for him. He was the highly touted No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, and he wanted to know why he wasn't more involved in the offense.
After they met in his office, then-coach Johnny Davis walked him down to the practice court. He pointed up at the glass backboard. Howard still was a little puzzled.
"If you want the ball more,'' Davis said. "Then go get it. And that is where you can find it.''
Howard took that lesson to heart Thursday night, propelling the Magic to an 83-75 victory over the Boston Celtics, evening their playoff series and setting the stage for a Game 7 Sunday night in Boston.
Howard had 22 rebounds, which was not that unusual for the league's leading rebounder, but he chased down 10 offensive rebounds, matching his season high and devastating the Celtics with second-chance points.
"Offensive rebounding is one of the hardest things to do,'' Howard said. "But it's the best way to get the ball, and the way to get easy buckets. He (Davis) always emphasized that. It stuck with me. He told me to go get the ball.''
Howard's performance came just two days after he complained again -- but on a much-bigger stage -- about not getting the ball enough. It was after the Game 5 collapse in Boston on Tuesday when he criticized coach Stan Van Gundy for not featuring him more in the offense.
"I think I've learned now to keep my mouth shut,'' said Howard, who met with Van Gundy on Wednesday and apologized for going so public with the criticism. "It's not about getting touches or shots for me. It's about attacking the glass.''
Howard got the ball more, essentially taking matters into his own hands by chasing every missed shot. He was stealing rebounds from a number of Boston front-court players. Boston's Kendrick Perkins has done a good job in this series of defending Howard, but he was defenseless against his pursuit of offensive rebounds.
It's why the Magic won, despite shooting an awful 37 percent from the field, missing 14 free throws and being outrebounded by six. Their perimeter game was almost non-existent at times, but Howard ruled around the basket.
"Dwight was incredible,'' said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "We didn't let him get the ball. He went and got it. He was terrific on the glass. He's a monster down there. We tried to hold him off, but we just couldn't.''
For Howard, it was his fourth career playoff game of at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. He also did it once in the first-round series against Philadelphia. As poorly as the Magic shot, there were plenty of loose balls for Howard to chase. No one else in the game had more than three offensive rebounds.
Before the game Thursday, Van Gundy had chastised Howard for his complaints about the offense, telling him that even though he averaged 20 points this season, his primary role was playing defense and rebounding.
"When Dwight is playing with the energy and effort that he played with tonight, maximizing his athletic gifts, he's just a very, very tough guy to play,'' Van Gundy said. "You can't say enough about what he did. I thought his effort tonight had very little to do with his comments and an awful lot to do with the responsibility he feels toward this team. He badly, badly want to get this done.''
The Magic had 24 second-chance points, compared to just 10 for the Celtics. And that was more than the difference in the game.
While Sunday's Game 7 will be nothing new -- almost common for the Celtics -- it will be just the third Game 7 in Magic history. Orlando won one in 1995 in the East finals against Indiana and lost one in 2003 in the first round against Detroit.
The Celtics are 17-3 in Game 7s at home through their storied history. They needed a Game 7 to beat Chicago in the first round. Howard never has played in one, but he smiled when he was asked about it Thursday.
"Coach described it in our meeting and said it's the best experience to be a part of. Everything is on the line for both teams. It's really like it will be my college (NCAA Tournament) experience,'' said Howard, who joined the NBA directly from high school. "This will be a one-and-done. It's not going to be about experience. It will be about effort.''
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