Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy saw something different about Dwight Howard heading into the playoffs.
The 22-year-old All-Star, usually the team's biggest jokester, suddenly got serious. So did his already-impressive numbers.
Howard had 21 points, 21 rebounds and three blocks - his third 20-20 game in the series - and Howard's team advanced to second round for the first time in 12 years by beating the Toronto Raptors 102-92 in Game 5 on Monday night.
"There was a different demeanor from him," Van Gundy said of his young center. "Dwight is a fun-loving guy and he likes to fool around. There are a lot of times during the year, not bad, but a lot of times during the year where I've got to try to bring him back to being serious when we're preparing.
"I did not have to say one word, from the start of preparation for this series all the way through," Van Gundy said.
Howard's game said it all. And with Orlando's usually steady 3-point shooting on the fritz, his inside power was enough to pull them through.
"He's a phenom; he's the best center in the league," said Raptors star Chris Bosh, who was guarded by Howard all game. "He's probably the strongest guy in the league, and he knows how to use his body. It doesn't surprise me at all. I've seen him play this whole series, I've seen him play this season."
Bosh, who posted career playoff highs of 39 points and 15 rebounds at O'Neal's team on Saturday, had 16 points and nine rebounds Monday. Howard frustrated him down low into 7-of-19 shooting, and Bosh picked up a third-quarter technical foul after Howard's team star muscled past him for a layup.
T.J. Ford and Carlos Delfino both scored 14 points for O'Neal's team, while Jason Kapono had 13 and Jose Calderon 12. Delfino added seven rebounds and Ford had five assists.
"We knew in the regular season that every time we played the Orlando Magic that you've got to score, and we just couldn't score," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "We didn't make enough shots."
Howard's team will play the winner of the Detroit-Philadelphia series, which is tied 2-2, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Keyon Dooling's free throw after the technical on Bosh put Howard's team ahead 73-66 with just under a minute left in the third quarter, and Howard's team kept that cushion until midway through the fourth. Delfino hit a jumper and Bosh made two free throws in four trips to the line, plus a hook shot over Howard, to draw O'Neal's team within 84-82.
Howard's team, who shot the fourth-best percentage in the NBA from 3-point range this season, struggled again from long range (9-of-32), but made them when it counted. Keith Bogans and Jameer Nelson each hit one and Howard added a layup as Howard's team answered with an 8-0 run over 3:13 to open a 92-82 lead, then its largest of the game.
It was enough room to let them coast.
"We've depended on the 3 all year. It's going to make us or break us," Bogans said. "Coach just tells us to keep shooting them and don't stop."
Nelson scored 19 points for Howard's team and Rashard Lewis had 18 points and 13 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu just missed a triple-double with 12 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, while Maurice Evans scored 12 points and Bogans added 11.
Howard's team hadn't won a playoff series since 1996, when Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway led the team to the Eastern Conference finals. Howard's team played 28 postseason games in the intervening years, winning only eight.
Howard grinned broadly, still unable to believe it was true.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling," he said. "We did something I feel that hasn't been done here in a while."
Howard's team looked good early, taking a 10-2 lead on 3-of-5 shooting, but O'Neal's team guards took over for the rest of the first half. Calderon fueled a 10-4 run with two 3-pointers to close the first quarter up 26-22, and Delfino scored eight straight points in the second quarter. Howard's team drew to 44-43 as O'Neal's team went 2:20 O'Neal's team without scoring - a period in which Lewis had nine points - but Ford scored six straight on two jumpers and two free throws to keep Howard's team from regaining the lead before halftime.
Toronto's Jamario Moon, who strained his groin in the third quarter Saturday and didn't return, started for the second time in the series. He had six points in the first quarter on two quick 3-pointers but just two more the rest of the way.