(AP) — Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic are looking to get back on the winning track heading out of the All-Star break.
Facing the Washington Wizards should represent a good chance to do that.
Howard and the Magic look to continue their domination of the woeful Wizards on Wednesday night in the nation’s capital.
Orlando (22-13) has won 10 of 14 overall, but entered the break by shooting 37.8 percent from the floor – 7 for 32 from beyond the arc – in an 83-78 defeat at Atlanta on Thursday. That performance prompted a brief players-only meeting.
“You’ve got to stick together and buy into what we’re trying to accomplish and go from there,” Howard said. “My focus is just to keep the guys in the locker room together despite what’s being said on the outside.”
Howard appeared in his sixth All-Star game Sunday, finishing with nine points and 10 rebounds in the Eastern Conference’s 152-149 loss in Orlando.
The center remains the driving force of the Magic despite the trade speculation that has swirled around him. The franchise’s all-time leader in points (11,024) and rebounds (7,821), Howard leads Orlando with 20.1 points and an NBA-high 15.3 rebounds per game.
Ryan Anderson, second on the team with averages of 16.1 points and 7.3 boards, is looking to shake out of a recent funk. He averaged 10.5 points on 34.9 percent shooting over the last four games before the break.
Howard and Anderson scored 23 points apiece and Howard had 18 rebounds in the Magic’s 109-103 home win over Washington (7-27) on Feb. 1, Orlando’s eighth consecutive victory in the series. Those eight wins have come by an average of 17.2 points.
Washington is also trying to end a five-game overall losing streak as it opens a five-game homestand. Coach Randy Wittman’s frustration grew after the Wizards’ highest scoring effort of the season went for naught in a 119-118 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday.
Wittman benched starting center JaVale McGee in the second half and played leading scorer Nick Young for only five minutes after the break, but was also critical of his younger players.
“I am done with young guys,” Wittman said. “If they don’t want to play the right way, the young guys aren’t going to play. They are not learning anything when they play the way they want to play.
“It doesn’t do us any good. “You get no development out of them if they are going in and playing the way they want to play and the way they did in that first half. … They are not developing. All they are developing is bad habits. I went with guys that I knew that were going to go out there and bust their rear ends and try to do things the right way in the second half.”
Wittman does continue to rely on second-year point guard John Wall, who is averaging 20.2 points and 9.7 assists and shooting 50.0 percent over his last six games.
That’s much better than Wall played in the last meeting with the Magic, when he missed 11 of 12 shots to finish with two points.
Wall is averaging 14.2 points and 6.0 assists in five career games against Orlando.