NBA Preseason 2011: Dwight Howard Struggles, Kevin Durant Does Not

The 2011 NBA preseason is in full swing, despite being just a few days old, with three more games taking place on Sunday night with the regular season being just one week away. Preseason games are typically used more for conditioning and figuring out the 13th man on the roster more than anything else, but the stars' statistics will be read into just as much as they are during the NBA's regular season regardless.

The biggest star in play on Sunday might not have been Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, but the trade-requesting big man did garner the most media scrutiny following his team's 118-85 loss to the Miami Heat. Howard made just two if his nine shot attempts to finish with five points and six rebounds, but head coach Stan Van Gundy did his best to stand up for his star after the game.

The Heat victory came behind 19 points from LeBron James, but NBA Development League call-up Terrel Harris did his best to put himself on the map as he hit four of his five three-point attempts to score 16 points off the bench for Miami. Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick each scored 22 points to lead the Magic in the loss.

Star-divide

The only game available to a national viewing audience on Sunday was the nightcap as Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder battled the defending-champion (sans Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki) Dallas Mavericks on NBA TV. Durant was kind of spectacular, too, as he need just five shot attempts from the field to score 21 points as the Thunder pulled out a 106-92 victory over the Mavericks.

Durant made four of the five shot attempts he was credited with from the field and sank 13-of-14 from the charity stripe in just 23 minutes of playing time. James Harden scored 16 points to help Durant out off of the bench while Russell Westbrook and Daequan Cook scored 12 points apiece.

The Mavericks didn't play veterans Nowitzki and Kidd, allowing their stars to rest up for the important games, leading to Delonte West starting at point guard for the defending champions. Back-up point guards Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones stole the show, however, as each scored 17 points while newly-acquired forward Lamar Odom scored 14 points in his Dallas debut.

Star-divide

The other game on Sunday took place north of the border as the Toronto Raptors played host to the Boston Celtics. The visiting team didn't play Paul Pierce, meaning it needed to find a different go-to scorer in crunch-time to pull out the 76-75 preseason victory.

D-League call-up Greg Stiemsma rebounded rookie E`Twaun Moore's runner with 13.9 seconds left in regulation and, after missing his first two attempts, the former Wisconsin Badgers standout was able to tip the ball into the hoop with 12.6 seconds left to make the eventual game-winner. The bucket accounted for Stiemsma's only points of the game as Ray Allen had a team-high 12 points in the low-scoring affair.

The Raptors were led by Andrea Bargnani with 16 points and nine rebounds, but the Italian forward was unable to answer Stiemsma's game-winner as he finished just 4-of-14 from the field. Third-year pro DeMar DeRozan added 14 points while Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis each contributed 10 points off the bench in a losing effort.

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