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The Magic went into the 2009–10 season with one major roster change: Türkoğlu departed for the Toronto Raptors, while eight-time NBA All-Star Vince Carter arrived from the New Jersey Nets.As with the previous two seasons, the Magic got off to a strong start, winning 17 of their first 21 games, setting a franchise record in the process.
In reaching the Conference Finals again, the Magic faced Boston—who had upset Cleveland in the Semifinals—Orlando lost the first three games, took the next two, but finally succumbed in Game 6.However, the Magic lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the first-round of the playoffs.Due to a lockout, the 2011–12 regular season was shortened to 66 games.On February 16, 2008, he won the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest by receiving 78% of the fan's votes via text messaging or online voting; in that contest, he performed a series of innovative dunks said to have rejuvenated the contest, including donning a Superman cape for one of the dunks.and in the first-round match-up against the Toronto Raptors, Howard's dominance (three 20 point/20 rebound games) and point guard Jameer Nelson's strong play ensured that Orlando prevailed over five games. Ten games into the season, the center was leading the league in blocks per game (4.2) and even recorded his first triple-double: 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks.The Magic went on to defeat Boston, and then defeated Cleveland—which was led by league MVP Le Bron James—4–2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Howard had a playoffs career-high 40 points to go with his 14 rebounds in the deciding Game 6, leading Orlando to its first NBA Finals in 14 years.
Hill identified two areas where Howard needed to improve: his post-up game, and his defense.
He exerted extra pressure on Howard, saying that the Magic would need him to emerge as a force in the middle before the team had a chance at the playoffs.
Howard continued posting impressive numbers in the 2007–08 season; with free agent Rashard Lewis added to the ranks alongside Hedo Türkoğlu to provide an extra offensive spark, this was the Magic's best season yet.
Howard's strong and consistent play ensured that he was named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, and by the time the mid-season break arrived, he was leading the league in double doubles (he concluded the season with a league-high 69) and had recorded 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game on five occasions (eight by the season's end).
The Los Angeles Lakers took the first two home games to establish a 2–0 lead in the Finals, before a home win by the Magic brought the score to 2–1.