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How the Magic use Howard in crunch-time

Mar 19, 2010, 7:47 PM EDT

One reason some people don’t consider Dwight Howard quite on the level of LeBron James or  Kobe Bryant is that he’s not the go-to guy for the Magic in crunch-time situations. In what defines as “clutch” situations, LeBron averages 65.5 points per 48 minutes. Kobe averages 50.1 points per 48. Dirk averages 45.7. Carmelo averages 40.3. Durant averages 38.4. 

Howard, on the other hand, averages only 15.6 points per 48 minutes in “clutch” situations. Vince Carter has been the Magic’s go-to guy in clutch situations, averaging 41.1 points per 48 minutes despite the fact he only shoots 37.5% from the field and 28.6% from deep during crunch-time. Dwight’s free throw issues are the main culprit here — Dwight’s gets fouled on 60% of his field goal attempts during crunch time, and he’s only made half of his free throws in pressure situations. 
Despite the fact Howard hasn’t been the guy doing the scoring late in games for the Magic, the Magic’s crunch-time offense works with Howard on the floor. Howard has played 96% of the crunch-time minutes for the Magic this season, and when he’s on the floor in those situations the Magic have scored 110.3 points per 100 possessions. That’s a better team crunch-time mark than the Lakers with Kobe on the floor, the Thunder with Durant on the floor, and the Nuggets with Carmelo on the floor.
On NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti has a post up detailing how Howard helps the Magic offensively without needing the ball in his hands. As Howard sets a screen for the ballhandler and rolls down to the rim, he forces the defense to put one or two defenders in the paint to prevent Howard from getting an easy dunk, freeing up one of Orlando’s many perimeter shooters. It’s long been known that this is the Magic’s strategy, but kudos to Sebastian for illustrating how the Magic use their All-NBA center late in the game without needing to give him the ball. 
  1. nanningbob - Mar 20, 2010 at 5:40 AM

    Not everything at crunch is points. Howard’s defense and rebounding is far more important to the Magic at crunch time than points scored. Orlando, unlike the other teams mentioned, have several scorers at crunch time. We can attack from many areas of the court, not just one. If they added the rebounds and gave him points for blocked or altered shots during that time he probably would be right up there with them. A blocked or altered shot that saves two points is just as effective as scoring two points. The results are the same.

  2. otownfan - Mar 20, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    That’s the problem really. Everyone focuses only on offense and don’t think about defense enough.
    With Howard in the paint in crunch time teams can’t take it to the hole as easily. The big man challenges anything near the basket. That turns the other team into jump shooters.

  3. AJ - Mar 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM

    blah blah blah, Howard apologists are on the loose again. get them their meds.
    point me to a team with a Hall of Fame big who didn’t demand the ball in the clutch during their prime.
    Parish demanded the ball. Barkley demanded the ball. Malone demanded the ball. Ewing demanded the ball. Jabaar demanded the ball. O’Neal demanded the ball. Olajuwon demanded the ball. Chaimberlan demanded the ball.
    Howard does not. and he’ll never be “the man” on that team until he can and does. until then, he’s just another really good defender, decent offensive player and under-achieving talent overall.

  4. Nick - Mar 20, 2010 at 10:44 PM

    Howard is not just another player, nor is he just “another really good defender”.
    He’s the league’s best defender by far. He turns Orlando into a good defensive team, even though Orlando has mostly below average individual defenders. It was the same thing Garnett brought to the Celtics 2 years ago..he instantly turns your team into a good defensive team. For heaven’s sake, Turkoglu looked like a good defender when he was on the Magic. Its b/c the Magic perimeter guys can be more aggressive, and dont care as much about letting guards get into the lane, b/c Howard will meet them there.
    Im a huge Raptors fan, and I think they have the worst defensive team in the league. But if we had Howard as the centre, the team would instantly be a top-10 defensive team (thats only one player!).
    But your point is still there, he’s not a dominating offensive player, especially in the clutch. Personally, I think Orlando needs another superstar guard, and then they would win the title hands down. If they had Durant or Wade or something lke that, they’d be unstoppable, better than the lakers hands down.
    But dont downplay the importance of Howard’s defence. He may go down as the greatest defender in the history of the game (looking at his rebounding and blocking numbers).

  5. randy - Mar 24, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Look at the Magic before Howard and after. ’nuff said. He forced Cleveland to go out and get a big guy this year to counter him. There’s an article out there now that L.A and Cleveland are both planning on putting two big guys in the front court at the same time during the playoffs this year. Why do you think they’re doing this? Howard of course. He is a game changer. Teams have to plan for him and change lineups for him. The Magic realize his shortcomings on offensive and have countered with an arsenal of outside shooters. He does exactly what he is expected to do on this particular team.

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