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Orlando Magic News for February 24th: Rashard Lewis in the Clutch; Dwight Howard's Emergence the Past Month or So

  • Denton: Lewis Remains Clutch
    John Denton of elaborates on Rashard Lewis' ability to hit clutch shots with games on the line.

    To be a great closer, you have to have something special. A swagger and a supreme confidence that no moment is too big and the ability to handle both the highs and the lows.

    New York Yankees' pitcher Mariano Rivera certainly has it in baseball. Indianapolis Colts' quarterback Peyton Manning certainly possesses that killer instinct with the game on the line, the latest Super Bowl notwithstanding.

    And with the Orlando Magic, standout forward Rashard Lewis is becoming that cold-blooded killer of foes in the fourth quarter and the team's big-shot-maker with games on the line.
  • Orlando Magic power forward Rashard Lewis has maintained his confidence despite a dropoff in scoring and shot attempts
    Josh Robbins has more on Lewis.

    The Orlando Magic power forward showed a glimpse of his old self Sunday in one of the biggest games so far this season. With the Magic clinging to a four-point lead late against the Cleveland Cavaliers and the shot clock winding down, Lewis swished a 3-pointer from the left corner to put the game out of reach.

    The basket, and the self-confidence it reflects, must be a welcome sign to the Magic. Orlando likely will need improved play from Lewis to successfully defend its Eastern Conference title and reach the NBA Finals once again.

    "You've got to have a lot of confidence, and I'm one of those guys that I feel like I can make the big shot to get us back into the game and help us win the ballgame," Lewis said. "I've always been like that my whole career. For some reason, I step up to challenges.

More after the jump.

  • Denton: Howard Peaking at Perfect Time
    For the Orlando Magic to be successful, It starts and ends with Dwight Howard.

    It's all about Dwight – all the time. And there's not a player in the Magic's locker room who will dispute that.

    ``We think he's the best player in the NBA,'' Nelson said confidently. ``Just look at all of the things that he does for us. It's not even about the scoring with him. He rebounds, he defends, he blocks shots. And really it's not just the block shots that are so impressive. There are so many times that he alters shots or times when guys don't even go into the lane because of Dwight.''

    Said Barnes a little more succinctly: ``The guy is an absolute beast down there.'' [...]

    Rarely do blocks and rebounds ever make it onto ESPN's ``SportsCenter,'' or garner major headlines, causing Howard to fall behind Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and James in terms of sheer buzz and national appeal. But one thing Van Gundy is certain of: Howard is right there on par with being one of the most dominant, important players in the game today.
  • Orlando Magic notebook: The team is adding some new wrinkles to its offensive playbook
    More new plays on the horizon?

    The Orlando Magic are adding to their offensive playbook.

    On Saturday, the team installed a new side pick-and-roll play for SG Vince Carter, and the new addition helped fuel Carter's eight-point outburst in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 101-95 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Coach Stan Van Gundy said the team put in some more wrinkles during Tuesday's practice at RDV Sportsplex.

    "We went through a long stretch there — a really long stretch — where we didn't have much practice time," Van Gundy said. "Now, we're gonna start putting in a little bit more stuff trying to develop some things for those guys just to give us some different looks."
  • Summer 2010 Preview
    UPDATE: Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus previews the summer of 2010, where Chris Bosh, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade highlight the free agent class, and takes a look at four key groups of free agents. A must-read. Since there's the expectation that Vince Carter may be replaced in the off-season due to his age and contract, which will become an expiring one, in theory, there's a list of possible replacements (some of the descriptions of them will surprise you) sprinkled throughout the article. Some good, some bad.