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News » Suns-Magic Preview

Suns-Magic Preview

Suns-Magic Preview
Once the center of the Magic Kingdom, Shaquille O'Neal returns to Orlando to face the player many consider the NBA's best center: Dwight Howard.

O'Neal, though, is not ready to pass the torch to the Magic big man. Especially with how the Phoenix center has been playing the past two games.

The two former No. 1 overall draft picks meet for the first time this season Tuesday night at Amway Arena as O'Neal and the Suns (34-25) look for their seventh straight victory against Orlando.

The often-injured O'Neal has missed nine of his team's 15 meetings with Orlando since Howard was taken first overall by the Magic in 2004. O'Neal won the first three matchups, but Howard has won the last three.

Howard leads the NBA in blocks (2.9) and rebounds per game (14.1) and is among the league leaders in double-doubles this season with 47. Yet O'Neal didn't seem impressed earlier this season as Howard became the highest vote getter in All-Star Game history.

"He's a good player, but everything he's done I've invented, so I'm not impressed," O'Neal said. "For me to get my eyes wide open about another big man, he'll have to do something that I haven't seen before or something that I haven't invented. Everything that he's done, I've invented it."

O'Neal missed the Suns' 113-112 win over Orlando (43-16) on Dec. 12 while attending his great-grandmother's funeral. Howard was limited to 19 points and seven rebounds.

O'Neal enters playing possibly his best basketball in years. He had 33 points and seven rebounds in Sunday's 118-111 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers after he had 45 and 11 in Friday's 133-113 win over Toronto.

It's the first time he has posted back-to-back 30-plus point games since March 5-7, 2004, with the Lakers. The last time O'Neal had three straight 30-plus point games was March 30-April 4, 2003, when he had four in a row.

"I've been doing it since 1992," said O'Neal, who averaged 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds for Orlando from 1992-96. "If you don't believe it, Google me."

Howard, meanwhile, had his string of double-doubles snapped at five with 12 points and eight boards in Saturday's 106-100 win over Philadelphia.

With Howard having a subpar game, Orlando turned to its outside shooting to secure its second straight road win. The Magic - one of the NBA's most accurate 3-point shooting teams at 39.2 percent - tied a franchise high with 37 attempts from long range, hitting 15. Rashard Lewis made five, rookie Courtney Lee nailed four and Hedo Turkoglu hit three.

"We decided to stick with it," Turkoglu said. "We're glad our shots went down."

The Suns will likely get Steve Nash back Tuesday after the two-time MVP missed the last three games with a sprained right ankle. Nash has double-doubles in seven of his last eight games versus the Magic.

Phoenix is beginning a four-game road trip after improving to 6-2 under coach Alvin Gentry with the win over the Lakers.

"Obviously a great win for us," Gentry said, "against what I think is still the best team in the league."

The Magic's last win over Phoenix was 111-102 in Orlando on Jan. 24, 2006.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 2, 2009


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