There is no denying Dwight Howard is struggling right now. He'll try to get back on track Friday when his Orlando Magic seek to end their four-game losing streak to
the New Jersey Nets.

Another key player for Orlando won't be available. The team learned Friday that Grant Hill, second on the Magic with 15.1 points per game, is expected to miss at least two weeks with a sprained knee.

Hill's absence puts added pressure on the 21-year-old Howard, who is one of the league's emerging stars and on his way to the best season of his three-year career, but has not played his best of late.

He was held to a career-low one point - missing all six of his field-goal attempts - in a 101-94 loss at New Jersey on Jan. 20. The Nets have beaten Orlando four straight times.

Howard struggled again Wednesday, managing only six points to go with seven rebounds, but Orlando (24-22) ended a three-game losing streak with a 98-73 victory over Milwaukee.

The Magic won for only the second time this season without Howard reaching double figures in either points or rebounding.

In foul trouble from the start, Howard did not get to the free-throw line until the fourth quarter and finished 2-for-8 from the stripe. He has made more than 50 percent of his foul shots just once in the last six games.

"It's another learning experience for me,'' said Howard, who is shooting 61.7 percent from the foul line on the season. "It's something I just have to go through now to become a great player."

Howard's rebounding pace also has slowed lately. The NBA leader for much of the season, he now ranks third with 12.1 boards per game after totaling more than seven rebounds only twice in the past six contests.

"I think he might be a little tired," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "He's played a lot of basketball. It's a legitimate concern. Sometimes, though, when you're going through a tough stretch, you think yourself tired a little bit. It's something we will keep an eye on.''

With Howard off his game, Hedo Turkoglu picked up the slack with 17 points Wednesday and Tony Battie added a season-high 15 for Orlando, which won for only the second time in 10 games.

"A win like this helps your mental health a great deal and that goes for everybody, players and coaches alike," Hill said. "You can relax a little more and it makes coming to the gym a lot easier."

New Jersey (22-24) put up little resistance Wednesday in its first home game following a five-game road trip, falling 113-89 to Detroit.

Mikki Moore scored 18 of his 20 points in the first quarter and Jason Kidd added 15 for the Nets, losers of four of six.

"We just had a bad night," Kidd said. "It happens. In 82 games you're going to (hope) that it's just one that you have and tonight was the one coming back from the West Coast trip. It doesn't erase anything. The game was on the schedule. Whether we lost to Detroit by two or however many, it's a loss and you move on."

Vince Carter was limited to 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting after averaging 34.3 points while shooting 66.7 percent (37-of-56) from the field in his previous three games.

Carter and Kidd have both been instrumental during New Jersey's four-game win streak against the Magic.

Carter has averaged 28 points in those contests, with Kidd adding 17.2 points, 9.2 assists and 8.0 rebounds.

The Nets are 8-2 in their last 10 visits to Orlando.


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