Howard had 21 points, 19 rebounds and replaced O'Neal as the NBA's youngest player to reach 3,000 rebounds, leading the Orlando Magic to a 95-70 victory over the ice cold and injured New Jersey Nets on Friday night.
"He's amazing," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. "Every night he brings it. Every practice he brings it. He is the leader of this team."
What impressed coach Stan Van Gundy even more was the way Howard did the job in leading Orlando to a franchise record-tying, sixth straight road win.
"The thing I like about him more than anything is his maturity," Van Gundy said. "He was very frustrated. He thought he got a couple of tough (foul) calls. We were struggling to get him the ball. Jason Collins is a tremendous low-post defender. He was getting banged around and he goes out and gets 19 rebounds."
Howard credited assistant coach Patrick Ewing and Bo Outlaw for telling him not to get frustrated when the ball isn't coming his way.
"Instead of trying to get the ball (they say) make a defensive stop, get an extra rebound instead of getting mad about not getting the ball in the post," Howard said.
Howard did that all night in sending New Jersey to its fourth straight loss.
Rashard Lewis added 27 points, and Nelson hit two big 3-pointers in a decisive third-quarter spurt that kept Orlando undefeated away from home this season. The 8-2 start is the team's best since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season.
Jason Kidd recorded the 89th triple-double of his career with a career-high 19 rebounds, 11 points and 10 assists on a night the Nets shot a season-low 29.8 percent from the field. They are 0-3 since Vince Carter sprained an ankle last week.
"I don't think I have ever seen a point guard get 19 rebounds, that's phenomenal," Van Gundy said.
Leading scorer Richard Jefferson added 15 points on 4-of-19 shooting. He came into the game having made 74-of-79 free-throw attempts but he even struggled there, missing four of his first five attempts en route to a 6-of-10 performance.
"It's been tough," Jefferson said. "We just have to stay together and keep fighting hard. We'll be OK."
Orlando never trailed after the opening minutes and the only question was whether Howard (21 years, 343 days old) would get his 3,000th rebound. He corralled it with 6:25 to play, breaking the old mark set by O'Neal, when he was 23-plus years old and also playing for the Magic.
"I keep working to get better every day," said Howard, who was unaware of the mark. He now has 3,003 rebounds.
The Magic, who were 15-26 on the road last season, took control with a 21-4 spurt in the final 8:45 of the first quarter to take a 25-10 lead.
The 10 points were the lowest-scoring quarter of the season for New Jersey. It came in a period in which coach Lawrence Frank tried to change things up by taking center Nenad Krstic out of the starting lineup and replacing him with forward Bostjan Nachbar.
It didn't work, as New Jersey missed its final 11 shots and turned the ball over twice.
Orlando led by 13 at the half and seemed in control until Kidd led a 13-2 spurt. His layup with 5:52 to go in the third quarter got New Jersey to within 56-49.
Nelson then took over. The Magic point guard hit a 3-pointer, fed Lewis for a 3-pointer and then added another 3-pointer in a 10-2 run that put Orlando ahead 67-51.
New Jersey was within 10 points at the end of the third quarter but it was outscored 10-1 at the start of the final quarter and never got close in seeing its four-game winning streak here against Orlando end.
- The Nets' previous low for a quarter was 11 against Boston on Wednesday.
- Frank and Van Gundy were called for technical fouls.
- The only other time Orlando won six straight road games was March 15-April 3, 1996.
- Jefferson and Collins also got technicals.
- Jefferson had led the Nets in scoring in all nine games.