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Howard wins battle between league’s top rebounders

Magic center has 16 boards during Orlando’s road win

SHARE Howard wins battle between league’s top rebounders

The top two rebounders in the NBA went at each other Monday night in the EnergySolutions Arena.

"I was looking forward to playing against him. I like playing against him," said Orlando Magic 6-foot-11 youngster Dwight Howard, in his third season out of high school and on top of the NBA boards board.

Utah's Carlos Boozer was second in NBA rebounding coming into the game.

Howard snagged 16 rebounds, 2.5 above his league-leading average, while Boozer, at 6-9, had nine, 3.7 below his average, as the Magic opened their Western road trip outrebounding the Jazz by nine and winning, 88-75.

Howard was singing and joking in the postgame locker room, loose without being big-headed about adding to his league lead and being instrumental — he tied Boozer with a game-high 21 points — in the Orlando victory over the team with the league's best record, 12-3.

Orlando moved to 11-4, the leading team in the East.

"I know one of the things I need to do to help my team out is rebound, so I try to do the best I can," said Howard, a center who worked against Utah's Mehmet Okur and got the Magic off to a big start.

Orlando led 19-6 on eight Howard points and a couple of boards.

"The first five minutes of any game are very important, and once we come out with a lot of energy, we can win any game," said Howard.

"We talked about coming in here and playing hard, playing a lot more physical with these guys," said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, noting that Utah was already coming off a loss Saturday and would try to get itself righted, so starting quickly would only help Orlando's cause. "We tried to come out and deliver a message early that we were going to be more physical than them and were going to play just as hard."

Both teams have budding stars at the point in Utah's Deron Williams and Orlando's Nelson, and consistent double-double men up front in Boozer (at power forward) and Howard.

"We are built similar," said Orlando coach Brian Hill.

But Hill's team got better play at the point and the post — Nelson had 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals and was aided by former Jazzman Carlos Arroyo's 13 points. Utah got eight points, six assists and four boards from Williams, and five points and two assists from Derek Fisher.

And all of the Magic out-quicked the Jazz to rebounds and loose balls. When the Jazz are playing well, that's what they do to other teams.

"That's what we've got to do to win," Howard said, "the little things to get us over the hump."

Utah's Matt Harpring noted that Howard is tough to play.

"He's athletic, and you can't go underneath the basket without boxing him out because he's going to out jump you. Not only him, but other guys were getting hands on little tips and then someone else was grabbing the rebound, and you've got to find your man and then box out and then go get the ball. It's kind of a fundamental maybe we lacked tonight."

Said Nelson: "That's one of the things we've been talking about. We have to get loose balls, especially the guards."

Arroyo said knowing the Jazz plays was an asset.

"We took away some of their stuff," he said. "It's great to beat your old team."

E-mail: lham@desnews.com