Let me be the first to say that Dwight Howard is an amazing talent, and will be for years to come. When it comes to being a force in the paint on both ends of the court, he's the best out there. That being said, Kendrick Perkins and the Celtics have kept Howard in check better than any other team in the league since Howard came into the league. Anybody surprised by the fact Howard ended Game 1 with 13 points and 12 rebounds, really hasn't seen many Celtic-Magic games in the past six seasons.
Howard's regular season averages are 18.3 points while shooting a league leading 61.2% from the field. His field goal percentage was actually better than his free throw percentage (59.4%). He also grabbed an average of 13.2 rebounds per game and blocked 2.8 shots per game.
Taking a quick look at Howard's statistics over the four regular season meetings against the Celtics, a few things will stand out. First of all, Howard could only muster up 12.3 points per game against the Celtics during the regular season. The only other team in the Eastern Conference that had more success in limiting Howard's point production was Miami (11.5).
In terms of field goal percentage, again the Celtics finished only behind Miami in the Eastern Conference allowing Howard to make a field goal just 46.9% of the time. Furthermore, Howard only attempted eight shots per game against the Celtics this season, tied for the second fewest attempts against an opponent (Chicago at 7.7, and Miami at 8.0).
Defensively, Howard's season statistics are slightly better in four games against the Celtics. Howard averaged 14.5 rebounds per game against the Celtics, and blocked 3.3 shots.
So what if we extend the sample size? In his career, Howard has averages of 17.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, and shoots 57.5% from the field. Let's take a look at Howard's production against the Celtics since he entered the league.
In 22 games against the Celtics, Howard is averaging 15.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and shoots 51.8% from the field. No team in the Eastern Conference has held Howard to an average of fewer points per game, and only two in the West have (Houston and Portland in 12 games). The 51.8% from the field is the best in league, and more than 2% lower than the next team in the East (Indiana at 54.0%).
The numbers prove that while Howard is still just as much of a force on the defensive end, his offensive numbers suffer when guarded by Celtics bigs, particularly Kendrick Perkins. This year, especially with the emergence of Rajon Rondo, Perkins has become the "other guy" in the starting lineup. Perhaps in this series, no other person at least defensively, is more important than Perkins. He has quietly become one of the best low post defenders in the league, and it often times goes unnoticed.
If Perkins (as well as Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis) can continue to knock around Howard down low and keep him in check, the Celtics should have no problem moving on to the NBA Finals.