ORLANDO, Fla. -- Before he even took a question Thursday, Celtics coach
Actually, Howard was wrong. And if you don't believe that, just ask him. After the Magic collapsed down the stretch in Game 5 of their Eastern Conference semifinal, the 24-year-old complained publicly that Magic coach
Thursday, Howard did just that.
In Orlando's 83-75 victory (
The Magic shot 36.6 percent from the field and made just 6-of-26 three-point attempts, and it took them until the fourth quarter to realize that if they attacked the basket, the officiating crew of
"The biggest thing for me was that I didn't worry about not getting touches," said Howard, who averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds in the first five games of the series. "Playing against a good defensive team like Boston, the only way I was going to get touches was to crash the boards. ... It's not about the touches. It's about being dominant."
Just in case Van Gundy's message didn't sink in Wednesday, veteran guard
The tempest that followed Howard's Tuesday outburst raged mostly out of his earshot. He kept his video game consoles on and ESPN off. Inside the Magic locker room, Howard's words were dismissed as pure frustration vented by a superstar still young enough to commit the venial sin of airing the team's dirty laundry in public. "It was nothing," point guard
Thursday, Howard seemed to better understand his own abilities. He's not
Howard grasped that Thursday.
"When Dwight is playing with the energy and the effort he played with tonight - you know, maximizing his athletic gifts - he's just a very, very tough guy to play on the move," Van Gundy said.
Howard will have to expend even more energy in Sunday's Game 7. The Celtics have won three Game 7s in the past two seasons, and they'll have a wild home crowd behind them. Howard, who skipped college and therefore missed out on the single-elimination meat-grinder that is the NCAA tournament, seems intrigued by the do-or-die atmosphere. "This'll be my college experience right here," Howard said. "It's one and done."
This week has provided a form of higher education for Howard. He spoke his mind, but Professor Van Gundy stood his ground against his star pupil and suggested a better solution. In the process, Howard learned two valuable lessons.
"Keep my mouth shut," Howard said. "And admit when I'm wrong."