NBA / May 17, 2010 / 2:30 pm

Dwight Howard still needs an enforcer

Dwight Howard (photo. Mannion)

Ray Allen and Paul Pierce put the ball in the basket, but the real MVP of yesterday’s Celtics/Magic Game 1 was Kendrick Perkins.

Playing on a sore knee, Perk had more combined turnovers and fouls (10) than he did points and rebounds (6), but Boston’s win hinged on his 1-on-1 defense against Dwight Howard. Coming off a series where he pummeled the Atlanta Hawks for 21.0 points per game on 84 percent shooting from the field (i.e., plenty of dunks), Dwight was held to 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting yesterday. That was thanks mostly to Perkins, but the Celtics’ rotating cast of bigs — Rasheed Wallace and Big Baby Davis — almost played a role. It was reminiscent of Dwight’s early playoff baptisms, when the Detroit Pistons were able to neutralize the young beast with guys like Ben Wallace, ‘Sheed, Antonio McDyess and Jason Maxiell. From the Orlando Sentinel:

“You gotta be physical,” Wallace said. “He plays physical. That was the thing we looked at in film of the last two series [Orlando played]. Guys just let him do whatever he wanted to do down there. But, no, we’re definitely gonna fight him.”

Boston won Round One.

They limited Howard to 3-of-10 shooting from the field, a statistic that doesn’t include the times Howard missed a close-range shot as he was fouled.

Indeed, the Celtics’ big men made certain to hammer Howard when he received the ball in position for an easy dunk or a layup. Howard didn’t record a single dunk Sunday.

Heading into the game, Howard said he wanted to use his quickness to force Perkins to move his feet. That rarely occurred in Game 1. Celtics players barely gave Howard any room to maneuver.

“I think I got into a little wrestling match with all those guys,” Howard said. “That’s playing to their advantage. They want me to wrestle and fight with them. That takes me off my game.”

This is nothing new. Back in December, when the NBA’s Man of Steel was getting routinely hacked by a slew of 6-10 villains, I wrote that Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy needed to get an “enforcer” on the court next to his superstar center, somebody to dole out punishment to the other team’s goons:

For every big man put in this situation, the easiest answer has always been to have an enforcer. It looks weird, considering the enforcer is usually smaller than the guy who needs protection — it’s like seeing Terry Crews with a bodyguard — but it works. Shaq had his greatest success when he had somebody looking out for him: Horace Grant in Orlando and L.A., Samaki Walker and A.C. Green in L.A., Udonis Haslem in Miami. It didn’t stop Shaq from getting fouled all the time, but at least he didn’t feel like he was out there fighting a solo battle.

Going into this season, Brandon Bass was supposed to play that role for Dwight, but Van Gundy refuses to put him on the court. Bass has played less than 10 minutes total in these playoffs; he even clocked DNP-CD’s in the Atlanta series where there was tons of garbage time to be had. Backup center Marcin Gortat rarely shares the floor with Dwight, and starting “power” forward Rashard Lewis rarely goes into the paint.

Even if Orlando gets to the Finals, this is going to be Dwight’s toughest series. The Lakers’ trio of big man — Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom — are talented, but not as mean and physical as Boston’s group. And should Orlando survive to face the Suns, Dwight will have even less resistance. But since it’s clear he’s not going to get much help against Boston, L.A. and Phoenix probably seem like the light at the end of a long, bruising tunnel.

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  • Scott

    They should hire Moses to replace Ewing. Makes more sense, considering the type of player Dwight actually is.

  • Bruce

    What the Nagic needs to do is get rid of Van Gundy. Or just insert Bass into the lineup.

  • the big fundamental

    So what’s PAT Ewing doing with the kid? Dwight doesnt look like he’s learned a lot from Ewing! When timmy duncan retires the orlando magic should hire him as Dwight big man coach :) they don’t call the man the big fundamental for no reason…

  • control

    I can see why no one will touch Pat Ewing for a coaching job. It doesn’t look like he’s coached shit to Dwight. Dwight could probably learn more watching Space Jam over and over every day. I think Ewing was overrated as fuck anyhow, just because he played in NY, not to mention he looks stupid as shit.

  • sh!tfaced

    Ron Jeremy is a good enough coach. He just needs a little more guts and gamble more – Rashard sucked, he had should have at least tried out playing Gortat/Bass with Dwight. Dwight’s got enough enforcers (for now) in the Polish Hammer and Bass.

    And yeah, think Ewing teaching Dwight isn’t really working. Time to get him a new sensei. Clifford Ray, in his short time with Howard, has done more than Ewing…

  • dvs

    Orlando should never have gotten Bass. Send him to Detroit. We’ll let him play, heck the way our team is, we’d let him start. :)
    Dwight needs to work harder than just throw up ugly hook shots. He wasn’t moving his feet, he wasn’t going to the rim. The guy is massive and he was getting pushed around by a elderly Sheed. He needs to be more aggressive and stop complaining to the refs.

  • Rafa23

    he doesnt need an enforcer, he needs a postgame. I always defended him and thought he had gotten better. but yesterday was awful. getting the ball in the paint, turning over his right shoulder so he can try a left!!! handed hook? he missed those so badly, but still didnt try a right hook or something other.
    and why in the world isnt he shooting his free throws different? his whole rhythm is fucked up. Why not shoot underhanded? I always thought only shaq is too proud, but I guess dwight isnt any different.

  • LakeShow84

    I cant believe Bass gets NO tick..

    Dude was a servicable big in Dallas..

    @ Dwight Howard

    CATCH.. TURN.. GO!!

    Add a little hesitiation or ball fake in between but JUST GO..

    Cant try to back Perkins down.. and some of the entry passes were shitty.. I expect Orlando to be much more focused next game..

  • D.I. Dollar

    I already blamed the loss on Rashard Lewis and his cold shooting night in Smack earlier today so I’ll just get to my question.

    When did Shaq and AC Green play together in LA?

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @D.I. Dollar — Green started all 82 games with the Lakers in 2000.


  • Bizz

    @7, cosign…He’s basically a carbon copy of what Shaq was, but Shaq was and still is far more capable and efficient at using his body to seal a defender and put up a hook shot comfortably, or lull a guy to sleep while posting up, then hit him with a quick spin and flush it. If Dwight can’t display a proper back to the basket game, maybe he should try to face up his defender, at least to mix it up…then again he may not have any confidence in that either. The other problem is that the Magic don’t really run a lot of give and gos with Dwight posting up, it just looks like a post feed and iso, but he’s not a good post iso player. One thing Shaq was really good at was posting up and passing out of the post. Maybe Shaq should sign with Orlando and mentor Dwight lmao

  • Buddahfan

    Perkins performance against Howard was no surprise despite Perkins not being 100% physically.

    Perkins has in the past had a number of very good games against Howard. Even Jason Maxiell all 6’5″ has had good games against Howard.

    Howard has a lot of trouble with opposing centers that he can’t muscle or out quick. Hell even Kwame Brown has done a pretty good job of defending Howard.

  • isotope

    They should keep pounding the ball to DH. Even if he just gets fouled, eventually Doc will have to sub someone else in. Sheed was just trying to start a fight with kid picking up fouls in the process.

  • sweetv0mit

    Why doesnt Stan go for a starting 5 of Jameer, Vince, Rashard, Marcin and Dwight? That should kill the match ups against Boston…

  • skip

    Two words: Danny. Fortson.

  • JAY

    I think it’s silly you say Howard is “basically a carbon copy” of Shaq then list a bunch things that are different.

    DO NOT EVER compare Shaq and Dwight and say they are similar. Other than size being similar, they are totally different. Shaq’s footwork, hands, passing, vision are light years ahead of where Howard is now. Not to mention Shaq’s soft touch inside. i always thought it was amazing that Shaq would bully his way inside then throw a feathery-soft shot off the backboard. Dwight’s interior shots are soooooo hard. There is no feel off his fingertips like Shaq had. Shaq was a beast on the offensive side of the court, and Dwight is the defensive beast. Too different beasts.

  • http://sportschump.net Chris Humpherys

    I agree.I though that Bass was going to be that guy. I also like when SVG played both Gortat and Howard at the same time. And I feel that Lewis has improved his interior D.

    But both the Lakers and Celtics are big down low.

    I still feel Dwight should be able to handle it.

    Here’s one perspective from a depressed Magic fan at Game One.


  • Bizz

    @11…He’s basically a carbon copy of what Shaq was, but


    Shaq was and still is far more capable and efficient at using his body to seal a defender and put up a hook shot comfortably, or lull a guy to sleep while posting up, then hit him with a quick spin and flush it.

    Therefore, the carbon copy of Shaq with this criteria would be “a big man who’s strong, who throws down with authority, shoots 58-60% from the field and <60% from the line"…that's as far as it goes with the offensive skill set that Dwight possesses, and that's what Shaq was early in his career during the Orlando days. It's not silly at all to say that and cite the differences…it was a point I made to show what type of player Dwight could be if he learned a post game, but because he hasn't, he's Shaq with a bunch flaws. Jerk.

  • air99

    Man Brandon Bass is a beast when his on, Stan Van Gundy sucks! They’re just wasting Bass on the bench, if they dont want Bass then trade him. Let other teams benefit for his talent!