It seems like Dwight Howard has some serious problems with his teammates’ heart. (Boston Globe)
Dwight Howard (31 points, 13 rebounds) gave standard answers to most of the questions on how the Celtics beat the Magic, but he did give a couple of revealing answers about his own team: “Next year we’ve got to have guys that are willing to give everything they’ve got to get wins,” said Howard. “In games like this or a series like this, it’s not about skill or talent, because it’s the Eastern Conference championship. Both teams are talented and skilled. It’s about who wants it the most and who is willing to do it for a series. Those guys played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That’s why they’re in the position that they’re in now.” Howard added, “Everybody wanted to do it on their own. That’s not what got us back to Game 6 ‑‑ this is Game 6. You know, just everybody wanted to do it by themselves. In a situation like this, you’ve got to keep fighting together.”
It doesn’t take Russell Crowe from “A Beautiful Mind” to understand that Howard’s speaking about Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis. Orlando’s two most talented offensive players, Carter and Lewis went MIA for the playoffs’ third round. The disappearances of Carter and Lewis helped expose the Magic for what they were — dangerous front-runners and not much else.
When the Magic were winning, everything looked so easy. The ball would be moving, shots would be swishing, and defensive rotations would be impeccable. But give them a deficit, and it was an entirely different story. I don’t know whether it was because they didn’t have enough heart or because they were simply a poorly-constructed team, but the Magic struggled when they got down. They were like the hard-hitting heavyweight with a glass jaw: When they got quick knockouts they looked unbeatable, but when pitted against an experienced fighter willing to stand toe-to-toe the Magic wilted.
Everyone wilted, that is, except for Howard. Howard didn’t advance to the Finals this season but he really proved himself as a player and competitor. It’s always been easy to complain about Howard’s competitive spirit — he’s always smiling, so it’s easy to use the smile as a convenient excuse to call out Howard’s heart and wonder why he isn’t snarling instead.
But this series, Howard was a warrior. He battled against four big bodies focused on nothing but being physical with him. A lot of Celtics fans will be upset about Howard’s elbows (and those fans probably have a good point) but the bigger story was Howard’s improvement. His team didn’t win, but Howard grew up in this series. By Game Six, he was an unstoppable force even against a Celtics frontcourt designed almost perfectly to stop him.
Say what you want about Howard’s smile, but at this point of his career all it does is hide the fierce competitor underneath.