Without injured star Dwight Howard, the Orlando Magic might have a tough time extending their recent stretch of success against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Minus their All-Star center for a fourth straight game, the visiting Magic look for a ninth consecutive win over the Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Orlando officials announced Saturday that Howard will again sit out because of a herniated disc. He was examined this weekend by a doctor in Los Angeles, leaving no timetable for his return.
Howard, who missed only two games because of injury in his previous seven seasons, has sat five of the last seven. The Magic (34-25) have dropped four of the five without their superstar, including the last two to Washington and Atlanta by a combined 36 points.
The Magic have lost seven of nine overall to drop to sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
"We have to have a better mindset by going forward - no excuses," guard J.J. Redick said. "In order to be a lot better, we have to figure out a way to play defense better. Because obviously we're going to miss having Dwight on that end of the floor a lot."
The Wizards and Hawks shot a combined 50.3 percent against the Magic this week, while Orlando made 37.6 percent of its shots in those two defeats. Glen Davis and Von Wafer each had 16 points Friday, but the Magic went 6 for 28 from 3-point range in a 109-81 home loss to Atlanta.
"(We) just didn't bring anything to the game," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't run back, we didn't get matched up. (Atlanta) got too many easy shots. ... It was a defensive problem that became an offensive problem."
Despite Orlando's recent struggles, Davis has averaged 18.7 points and 11.4 rebounds in seven games since entering the starting lineup, although he certainly doesn't have the defensive presence of Howard - the three-time reigning NBA defensive player of the year.
Orlando has had little problem at either end of the floor during an eight-game winning streak over Cleveland, which dates to a 115-106 road loss Feb. 11, 2010. The Magic, whose average margin of victory during that streak is 10.8 points, won both meetings this season by a combined 21.
Howard, though, has averaged 20.3 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks in the last eight matchups.
Ryan Anderson has averaged 17.3 points in the last four games versus Cleveland, but he's totaled 13 on 4-of-22 shooting in the last two overall - hitting 1 of 15 from beyond the arc.
Playing their second of three games in three nights Saturday, the Cavaliers (20-38) avoided a third consecutive loss with a 98-89 win at Washington.
Without starters Kyrie Irving (shoulder) and Antawn Jamison (rest), Cleveland shot 51.5 percent. Luke Harangody had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a call-up from Canton of the NBA Development League.
Irving, the 2011 top overall pick averaging 18.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.9 rebounds, will miss an eighth straight contest Sunday.
Harangody, who played for Canton on Friday and will again Sunday, made the most of his one-night audition as an NBA starter.
"This is a beginning for a lot of our guys," veteran Anthony Parker said. "It can carry over for where it takes them in the next couple of years."
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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