I know it was only one game, and a preseason game at that - but what a difference a summer makes. First off, Dwight Howard looked real good. I was very impressed. Howard will probably have a few bad games, but tonight he showed why he was the #1 pick. Several thunderous dunks and running the floor like a veteran. One dunk in the third brought the half full arena to their feet and Steve Francis jumped on Howards' back. Francis, Cuttino Mobley and Kelvin Cato played exceptionally well. Franis knew where his teammates would be and delivered the ball to spots on the floor you didn't think they would be able to get to. Francis finished with 19 points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds. Mobley added 24 points and Cato added 6 rebounds. Howard finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds.
Grant Hill looked good on the court, but showed a little rust. He will only get better. This team will only get better - but they already look better than the last 3 years. This team shows no resemblence of last years team. They rebound, defend, run the floor and somewhat, make their free throws.
One last thing on Howard and one on the fans. Howard did a lot more than score a few points off a couple dunks and grab a couple rebounds. On two occassions he set screens that freed up a player to drive to the basket. Not one of those silly no contact screens, but a solid screen. Also, finishing with two hands. For you Steven Hunter fans out there, this is the difference in a rookie of the year and trade fodder. Howard goes up strong and quick, putting his body between the ball and defender and finishes with two, count 'em, two hands.
Last note for the fans. Don't be afraid to be excited and cheer for this team. They played very hard tonight. Yes, they made a few mistakes - but they deserve 110% from us every night. I will be just as hard on the team as the next guy - but I will always support the team.
Magic lose the game, 99-95 - but in the end, this was a big win for this team. We play Atlanta tomorrow night. Howard returns home - so, look for another big game.