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Howard, Okafor have memorable battle; Magic win fourth straight

Nov 19, 2006 - 2:46 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- While members of the 2003 draft class continue to dominate the headlines, Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor are letting everyone know the 2004 class still has something to say.

Howard collected 24 points and 21 rebounds in three quarters to offset a 26-point performance by Okafor, as the Orlando Magic won their fourth straight game with a 97-83 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

LeBron James, the No. 1 overall pick in 2003, Carmelo Anthony, who was selected third, and Dwyane Wade, the fifth pick and last season's Finals MVP, are all superstars. These three young talents continue to amaze with their ability to score in an exciting manner.

Howard and Okafor, the first and second pick, respectively, in the 2004 draft, find their success in the paint - big dunks, rebounding and turning away shots. These two went toe-to-toe in their first encounter of the season Saturday.

"I don't think there is any question, these are going to be two of the premiere inside players in the league for many years to come," Magic coach Bob Hill said. "I was incredibly impressed with Okafor. ... He's a vastly improved offensive player.

"I'm sure he and Dwight are going to have a lot of battles down the road. When two guys come in like that it reminds me of Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) and Alonzo (Mourning) back in the day (1992 draft) and the wars they use to have going against each other."

Entering the contest ranked third in rebounds (12.3), Howard registered his fourth career outing of at least 20 points and 20 boards. He posted a 20-20 against Minnesota a week ago and also reached the milestone against the Bobcats in a November 15 meeting last season.

"Every night I step on the court, especially when I'm playing against somebody like Emeka, I try to play as hard as I can," Howard said. "I have to turn that into doing that every night. It shouldn't be only against the top players. It should be everybody in the league. Every time he scored I wanted to score. I wanted to get every rebound."

"I think he (Howard) was aggressive," Hill said. "Everytime he wasn't double-teamed I think he was looking to take the ball strong to basket. Certainly with 21 rebounds, he was extremely aggressive. With 29 minutes of play, 24 and 21 is a pretty good night."

The 6-11 forward made 7-of-12 shots from the floor and 10-of-13 free throws. He helped the Magic build on to a 57-43 cushion at the break by netting 11 points, including a powerful one-handed dunk, in the third quarter.

Okafor, who entered the game leading the league in blocked shots (4.1), scored the Bobcats' first eight points and finished 13-of-15 from the floor in three quarters. He pulled down nine rebounds, but did not record a block in a game for the first time this season.

"I think he (Okafor) had a great game," Howard said. "He only missed two shots. That's awesome for anybody to only miss two shots. Since he's gotten healthy he's been playing great ball. I have to watch some more film on him and make sure we keep him away from do the things he likes to do."

Okafor played in only 26 games last season due to an ankle injury.

"To tell you the truth, I was just out there playing," Okafor said. "Naturally, you have that competition because of the one-two (draft order). The fact that you guys (the media) talk about it, it gets into our heads a little bit."

Grant Hill had 15 points and Darko Milicic added 14, eight boards and four blocks for Orlando.

Sean May scored 12 points and Raymond Felton finished with 10 and 10 assists for the Bobcats, who closed their three-game road trip 1-2.

Charlotte shot an abysmal 1-of-17 from the arc.

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