Staff Writer: Ryan Ward
When the Orlando Magic went all the way to the NBA Finals to face the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers last year they surprised everyone as no one anticipated them beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Even though it was a surprise to see the Magic upsetting LeBron James and company in the East finals, once they advanced to the NBA Finals everyone started to realize that Orlando was officially a force to be reckoned with in the East.
One of the main reasons for the Orlando Magic’s resurgence last season was Dwight Howard becoming arguably the best defensive player in this league. No matter who attacked the basket against the Magic, they had to deal with Dwight Howard in the paint who has quickly become a dominant shot blocker and an absolute monster on the glass.
As a result of Howard’s impressive season on the defensive end of the floor last year he was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year award and no one was more deserving. This season Howard has almost identical numbers compared to last year (13.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game) and has won the Defensive Player of the Year award for the second straight season.
This season LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have come on strong once again and are the favorite to come out one top in the Eastern Conference, but as a way to avoid getting knocked out of the playoffs for the second straight season in a row by the Orlando Magic, the Cavs went out and traded for future hall of fame center Shaquille O’Neal.
The trade was made solely to figure out a way to defend Dwight Howard in the paint and there was no better player to bring in than the first player to be dubbed “Superman” in Shaq.
Whether or not Shaq can contain Dwight Howard in the paint in a seven games series still remains to be seen, but with the way the Cavs are playing right now they will have a lot of momentum heading into what will almost certainly be a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Regardless of what happens this season Dwight Howard has become one of the most dominant players in the game and with the addition of some solid post moves he could go down as one of the best big men ever to play this game.
In the meantime, the Orlando Magic are sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead on the Charlotte Bobcats heading into game three in North Carolina. The Bobcats might be tough to beat on their home floor, as they are one of the better home teams in the league, but ultimately they will almost certainly get knocked out of the first round by Dwight Howard and company.
If the Magic do manage to get to round two they will face either the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat. As of right now it is looking like the Celtics have the upper hand, but with the series shifting to Miami the Heat might be able to get back on track.
No matter happens though, if the Magic can advance to the Eastern Conference finals, they will most likely end up going up against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.