The Orlando Magic will finish the regular season -- seven games remain -- without center Dwight Howard, who was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his lower back Friday night.
His status for the playoffs is uncertain.
"His return depends on how he responds to treatment," a Magic spokesman said Friday night.
Howard flew to Los Angeles Friday morning to get a second medical opinion on his back. Until Friday night, both he and the Magic were downplaying his injury, saying it merely was back spasms.
On Saturday, multiple media outlets reported that Howard likely will sit out the remainder of the regular season.
The Magic (35-24) played without Howard for the fifth time in the last seven games Friday night. Without Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, the Magic were awful defensively, falling 109-81 at home to the Atlanta Hawks.
They return to action Sunday night in Cleveland. They currently are sixth in the Eastern Conference, comfortably ahead of Philadelphia at No. 7. If the playoffs started today, they would see the No. 3 seeded Indiana Pacers in the first round.
"We just didn't do anything right tonight," said guard Jason Richardson after the loss to Atlanta. "Atlanta gives us problems with or without Dwight. We have to figure out how to play against them and get ready for the playoffs."
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