Defending Dwight Howard

The Cavs have a tough choice in this series. Do they try to stop Dwight Howard, or do they try to stop the Magic’s three-point shooters. It’s a tough choice, and Terry Pluto breaks down the “stop-Howard” approach.

Yes, the 3-pointer at the buzzer by LeBron James (and his 35 points) decided this game. But did you notice Dwight Howard had only two points after the first quarter? Or only 10 for night? Howard was still a factor with 18 rebounds, but not close to 30-point force that he was in the opener. That’s because the Cavs entirely changed their defensive approach, giving Zydrunas Ilgauskas plenty of help — and the Cavs center also being more active. Or how about this? Ilgauskas outscored Howard, 12-10. He was close in rebounding, the 18-15 edge to Howard. So much better than the opener when Howard outscored Ilgauskas, 30-10.

In the first game, the Cavs’ film study revealed that there were five to seven plays where Dwight Howard was within a few feet of the basket and a Cavalier was nearby and could have fouled him — but didn’t. In Game 1, Howard took only two free throws (made both) and scored 30 points. In Game 2, the Cavs doubled-teamed Howard from different directions, everyone from Delonte West to Anderson Varejao to LeBron James helping Ilgauskas with double teams. The Cavs outscored Orlando by five points when Howard was on the floor.

In the playoffs, 46 of Howard’s 103 field goals are dunks, yet another reason to send him to the foul line. When a player lacks confidence from the line and begins to miss free throws, it can make him a bit timid on offense — because he doesn’t want to be fouled. Ben Wallace also was an asset on defense; he did a nice job pushing Howard away from the basket. Even better for the Cavs, they won the rebounding battle, 38-30.

They should stick with this strategy, but they need to find an answer for the Magic shooters when Howard if off the court.

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