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Howard, Magic host Pistons in Eastern Conference clash

Dec 8, 2006 - 3:34 PM Detroit (12-7) at Orlando (14-6) 7:00 pm EST

ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- For the past couple of seasons, the Detroit Pistons have been the class of the Eastern Conference. But Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic want a turn at the top.

Howard and the Magic put their six-game home winning streak on the line Friday when they host the red-hot Pistons.

Detroit has won the Central Division crown four of the past five seasons. The only time the Pistons did not clinch the division over that span was the 2003-04 campaign, when they upset the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title.

However, Howard and the Magic have been the toast of the conference this season and enter Friday's showdown with a 14-6 record, the top mark in the East and the third-best in the league.

One of the NBA's brightest young stars, Howard had 20 points and eight rebounds in Orlando's 94-80 setback at Indiana on Wednesday. Grant Hill scored 16 points in the contest for the Magic, who concluded a 4-2 road trip.

Averaging a league-best 13.2 rebounds per game, the 6-11 Howard has teamed with 7-foot Darko Milicic to give Orlando an exciting future in the post.

Milicic, who was drafted second overall by the Pistons in 2003, has steadily improved since being dealt to the Magic last season. He is averaging career highs in points (7.7) and rebounds (4.9) this campaign.

The series between the Pistons and Magic has been one-sided of late, with Detroit winning 10 of the last 13 meetings. But the Pistons may be without star point guard Chauncey Billups, who strained his right hamstring Thursday and will be a game-time decision against the Magic.

Tayshaun Prince scored 20 points and Rasheed Wallace drained five 3-pointers on his way to 19 points and nine rebounds for Detroit in Thursday's 92-82 triumph at Dallas.

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