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Lakers Vs. Magic: Andrew Bynum Faces Test In Dwight Howard

The Los Angeles Lakers tonight are looking for their 10th win in their last 11 games, and standing in their way is Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Tonight is the first game of a seven-game homestand for the Lakers, who don't play another road game until April 1. The Lakers play 11 of their last 15 games at home.

Howard overpowered the Lakers on February 13 in Orlando, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 boards in Orlando's 89-75 win. That game was a tale of two halves for the Lakers, who trailed at halftime 45-41, playing their third road game in four days, and Andrew Bynum was looking good. That is, until the second half.

February 13 in Orlando
Center First Half Second Half
Andrew Bynum 11 pts, 7 rebs 6 pts, 2 rebs
Dwight Howard      
9 pts, 5 rebs 22 pts, 8 rebs
Game Score ORL 45-41 ORL 44-34

The All-Star break came a week later, and since then Bynum has been outstanding. He has averaged 12.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game in the last 10 games, shooting 66.7% from the field. In his last five games, Bynum has made 26 of 33 field goals, a sizzling 78.8%. Over at Silver Screen and Roll, Dexter Fishmore is looking forward to tonight's matchup in the pivot:

As nifty as Drew's been since the All-Star break, he hasn't encountered an opponent as fearsome as Howard. That's because in the world of NBA big men, Howard's the unquestioned gold standard for fearsomeness. At age 25 (and doesn't it feel like he should be older?), the man's having the best season of his career. He's putting up 23 points a night on his customary 60% shooting while collecting 14 rebounds and over two blocks per game. He's the best defensive player in the world and has kept the Magic in the upper half of the East's playoff bracket despite season-long underperformance by many of his teammates. He's also gone out of his way to tamp down speculation that he'll opt out of his contract and attempt to join the Knicks or Lakers in the summer of 2012. Although Derrick Rose has captured the imagination of the media and seems likely to win MVP this year, if I had a vote and were forced to cast it right now, I'd punch my ballot for Dwight.

For more news and information on tonight's game, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.