Daily Confidential

The kind of force Chris Webber used to be is what Dwight Howard is now turning into for the Orlando Magic.

The two power forwards will match up Friday night when Howard and the Magic host Webber and the Philadelphia 76ers.

In each of Webber's first five seasons with the Sacramento Kings - from 1998-99 to 2002-03 - he dominated the paint by averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Webber nearly led the Kings to the 2002 NBA finals before falling in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

However, Webber suffered a major knee injury the following year in the playoffs that required microfracture surgery. He came back to average 20.2 points and 9.9 rebounds last season, but does not possess the same explosiveness he had before the surgery.

Howard, meanwhile, is a third-year power forward poised for his best season in the NBA. He spent the summer excelling for the U.S. national team that won the bronze medal in the world championships.

The 6-foot-11 Howard had a strong season debut with 27 points and 11 rebounds - while mostly being guarded by four-time defensive player of the year Ben Wallace - in a 109-94 victory over Chicago on Wednesday for Orlando. He made 9 of 12 shots on an assortment of dunks and low post moves.

``That's going to be our team every night,'' Orlando coach Brian Hill said. ``We want to play inside-out and we want to try to establish Dwight's presence at the post and see how the teams are going to try to defend him, whether they are going to double team him, whatever the case may be. That was our game plan tonight, trying play inside-out as much as possible.''

Even the ornery Wallace was generous with his praise for Howard.

``Dwight's going to be one of those guys in this league that are going to make it hard, make it tough for anyone who comes into this building to get a win,'' Wallace said.

Jameer Nelson scored 21 points and Grant Hill added 19 for the Magic, who have won 13 of their last 14 home games dating to last season.

Webber had a difficult time getting untracked offensively in Philadelphia's opener, an 88-75 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. He made just 4 of 16 shots for eight points, although he grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds.

``It's the first game, you know?'' Webber said. ``We'll see how it goes after that.''

The 76ers overcame Webber's rough night thanks to Allen Iverson, who scored 32 points and shot 13-for-14 from the free-throw line.

Iverson credited his team's defense, which limited the Hawks to 33 percent shooting.

``If you play great defense, you get a chance to make your offense better,'' Iverson said. ``That's how we'll get better, by playing defense. If we can rebound the basketball, I don't think nobody can deal with us.''

Orlando won three of four meetings against Philadelphia last season and has won four of the last five matchups at home.

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