Ben Wallace was once the top rebounder on some of the NBA's best teams. Dwight Howard seems more than ready to assume that role.
Howard and the Orlando Magic look for their fourth win in a row when they visit Wallace's Bulls on Monday afternoon at the United Center.
Wallace's 15.4 rebounding average during the 2002-03 season - for a Detroit Pistons club that reached the Eastern Conference finals - was the highest in the NBA over the past decade. This season, Howard is approaching Wallace's mark with a league-leading 15.3 boards per game.
Howard has averaged 12.0 rebounds since he entered the league in 2004-05, trailing only Kevin Garnett's 12.8 over that span. Wallace ranks fourth with 11.1 rebounds per game.
As Howard takes his place as the league's elite player on the glass, Wallace appears to be declining at age 33. He's averaging 8.5 rebounds, his lowest total since grabbing 8.2 per game in 1999-2000 - his lone season as a member of the Magic.
Howard is also Orlando's leading scorer, averaging a career-high 23.1 points. He has had 17 games of at least 15 points and 15 rebounds while leading the Magic (21-11) to the top of the Southeast Division.
"I know it's not about points every night,'' Howard said. "It's about playing defense, blocking shots and controlling the paint at both ends."
He had 15 points and 21 rebounds in the Magic's 104-95 victory over Charlotte on Saturday, and has averaged 15.8 points and 13.6 rebounds in 10 career games against the Bulls.
With Howard dominating the paint, Orlando has had plenty of room along the perimeter. The Magic have three players - Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Keith Bogans - among the league's top 10 in 3-pointers made per game.
The Magic beat the Bobcats without point guard Jameer Nelson in the lineup. He's listed as day-to-day with a strained back.
Chicago (11-17) has won consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 5-7. The Bulls dropped their first game after coach Scott Skiles was fired on Dec. 24, but are 2-0 since Jim Boylan was named the team's interim head coach three days later.
The Bulls average a league-low 91.9 points, but they've scored at least 100 in their last two wins after reaching the century mark only six times under Skiles.
They shot 50 percent from the field for just the third time this season in Sunday's 100-83 win at New York.
"I think everybody is playing more relaxed," said guard Ben Gordon, who had a team-high 25 points. "We are trying to play together more and guys are moving the ball."
Gordon came off the bench for the second game in a row after starting Chicago's first 26 contests. He's averaged 28 points in two games in his new role.
"I wasn't happy, but (coach) wanted to bring some more scoring off of the bench,'' Gordon said. "At the end of the day, I just always want the team to win and for everybody to do well. So I told him if that's what he thinks will work, then I was for it.''
Gordon has averaged 17.4 points in 10 career games against Orlando.
The Magic took two of three meetings with the Bulls last season, including the lone game in Chicago.
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