MINNEAPOLIS -- A pair of young beasts on the low block are coming into their own, and it's going to be awfully fun to watch these two go at each other for the next 10 years.
Give the latest, and best head-to-head to date, to Dwight Howard -- barely.
In a matchup of two of the best young power forwards in the game, Howard edged his classmate Al Jefferson, scoring 28 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in Orlando's 111-103 victory over winless Minnesota on Tuesday night.
"Oh yeah, its fun," Howard said of playing against Jefferson, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds. "He's a great low post player. He works with the guy (Wolves coach Randy Wittman) who taught me almost everything I know.
"His game is getting better. Has gotten better since he got in the league. He's always been a great scorer, but he's more potent now than he was back in the day."
Carlos Arroyo had 18 points and six assists in place of an injured Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis scored nine of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for the Magic to stave off the hard-charging Timberwolves.
Jefferson was quiet for the first three quarters, managing just 13 points and four rebounds, but he scored 12 points in the fourth to help the Timberwolves make things interesting.
The Wolves trailed 92-76 with 10:32 to play in the game before Jefferson took over, scoring eight points in a 14-0 run that cut Orlando's lead to 92-90.
But Lewis came right back, hitting three straight 3-pointers to push the lead back to 101-95 and Minnesota never got closer than four the rest of the way.
"Rashard Lewis hit some big shots," Jefferson said. "I knew he was a great player, but he really showed us that tonight."
Marko Jaric had 10 points and 10 assists and Greg Buckner scored 18 points for the Timberwolves, who missed Rashad McCants' offensive skills down the stretch. McCants went out in the first quarter with a sprained ankle.
Jefferson and Howard have quite a history, and they went at each other hard all night.
"Me and Dwight Howard, we're great friends," Jefferson said. "But when we're on the court, we hate each other. He says to me in the game, 'Man stop doing all those ball fakes.'
"And I said, 'Well, stop jumping.' It's always fun to go against him. But when we're out there on the court we're battling."
Howard dominated Jefferson for the first three quarters, scoring 26 points and grabbing 14 points to give the Magic a 14-point cushion.
But he managed just two points in the fourth, and got plenty of help from Lewis to keep his buddy Jefferson down.
Both were high school All-Americans from the South -- Howard from Atlanta and Jefferson from Mississippi -- who decided to skip college in 2004 and go straight for the pros. Howard was the No. 1 overall pick who signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension in July after being an All Star last year.
Jefferson was picked 15th by the Celtics and came to Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett trade at the end of July. He signed a five year, $65 million extension last week.
After signing that deal, Jefferson shocked the local media in attendance at the press conference when he said he didn't feel like he had proven himself to deserve the max contract just yet.
"I just felt like I had more work to do," Jefferson said again on Tuesday night. "Dwight Howard got max and I think he proved himself to get max because all three years he's been in the league, he's proved himself to be a max player. I just had a great year last year."
Jefferson is 22 and Howard will turn 22 in December. They have played against each other in the NBA for four years now, but it's clear this rivalry is just beginning.
"It's all good fun out there," Jefferson said. "But we know it's a game and we all try to win."
|Minnesota's Al Jefferson can't slow down Rashard Lewis, who finishes 10-of-17 for 27 points. (AP)|
|Orlando (3-1) «||26||30||32||23||111|
|ORL:D. Howard 28 Pts
ORL:D. Howard 16 Reb
ORL:C. Arroyo 6 Ast
|MIN:A. Jefferson 25 Pts
MIN:A. Jefferson 10 Reb
MIN:M. Jaric 10 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|R. Lewis, SF||40||10-17||0-1||3||1||3||27|
|D. Howard, C||39||8-12||12-16||16||1||2||28|
|K. Bogans, SG||39||2-7||4-5||9||3||4||9|
|C. Arroyo, PG||37||6-12||6-8||3||6||1||18|
|H. Turkoglu, SF||32||4-15||5-8||6||4||4||14|
|P. Garrity, SF||25||4-6||0-0||3||4||4||9|
|K. Dooling, PG||20||1-3||2-2||0||2||3||4|
|A. Foyle, C||9||0-1||2-4||0||0||0||2|
|T. Ariza, SF||1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0|
|T. Battie, PF||Did Not Play|
|B. Outlaw, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Nelson, PG||Did Not Play|
|M. Gortat, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Augustine, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Redick, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|G. Buckner, SG||39||7-13||2-2||3||3||5||18|
|A. Jefferson, PF||35||11-20||3-4||10||1||5||25|
|S. Telfair, PG||27||1-5||2-2||1||4||2||4|
|R. Gomes, PF||25||1-5||7-9||4||3||2||9|
|R. McCants, SG||11||4-4||0-0||1||1||1||8|
|M. Jaric, SF||30||4-9||1-2||5||10||3||10|
|C. Brewer, SF||29||4-9||0-0||6||2||6||10|
|A. Walker, SF||22||2-8||2-3||5||2||3||6|
|C. Smith, PF||15||6-8||1-3||6||0||2||13|
|C. Richard, PF||4||0-0||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|M. Doleac, C||3||0-0||0-0||1||0||0||0|
|T. Ratliff, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Madsen, PF||Did Not Play|
|G. Green, SG||Did Not Play|
|R. Foye, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|