Raptors put streak to the test in Orlando
The Orlando Magic have relied on Dwight Howard to help them put together winning streaks all season. Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors are surging much too late.
In a matchup featuring two of the league's best young big men, the Magic look to match their season high with seven straight wins while trying to deal Bosh and the Raptors their first defeat in five games Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET).
Orlando (55-18), trying to remain percentage points ahead of Boston for second place in the Eastern Conference, is attempting to win seven in a row for the third time this season.
In the latest victory, Howard had 22 points and 18 rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain as the youngest player to reach 5,000 boards as the Magic beat Miami 101-95 on Monday night.
Howard, 23, has 5,006 rebounds while Chamberlain was 25 years old when he got his 5,000th. He helped Orlando continue one of its best runs of the season with nine games remaining, six against teams with records below .500.
"The one thing our team deserves credit for is they have a lot of resolve," coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Howard is averaging 34.0 points in his last two games against Toronto (28-45) and 28.4 in the past five meetings.
Bosh, averaging 30.4 points and 11.0 rebounds in his last eight games against Orlando, has the Raptors in position to try to win five in a row for the first time since a six-game run from April 4-15, 2007. Toronto's previous best this season was three straight wins, set twice.
"I wish we'd been playing like this earlier (in the season) but you can't change the past," Bosh said. "All we can do is dictate what we do now. We've just got to keep it going."
Bosh had 31 points, including a three-point play with 15 seconds left in overtime that put Toronto ahead for good in Sunday's 134-129 victory over Chicago. He needs 29 points to match his career best for a season, set in 2005-2006 with 1,572.
Bosh added 15 rebounds and went 11-for-11 from the free-throw line as Toronto set a franchise high for points, topping the 129 scored in a win over New York on Jan. 15, 2006.
Andrea Bargnani, picked No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft, had 28 points. He continues to flourish, giving the Raptors a formidable frontcourt.
The seven-footer is averaging 20.4 points while shooting 47.4 per cent (37-for-78) from three-point range over his last 19 games.
Toronto's backcourt is anchored by Jose Calderon, who had 22 points and matched a team record with 19 assists versus the Bulls. He's shooting a league-best 97.8 per cent from the free-throw line, and has posted career highs with 12.9 points and 8.8 assists per game.
Calderon will be matched up with Rafer Alston, who has been steady since being acquired in a trade with Houston to replace the injured Jameer Nelson (shoulder). Alston had the best scoring season of his career with Toronto, averaging 14.2 points in 2004-05.
The Magic are 2-1 against the Raptors this season.