All-Star center Dwight Howard missed just the eighth game of his eight-year career Sunday because of a lower back strain, leaving Glen Davis to start at center for the Magic against the Nuggets.

Howard played 43 minutes in Friday's loss to the Mavericks, but was apparently battling through a back injury head coach Stan Van Gundy said originated from a phantom punch thrown by Dallas center Brendan Haywood during the game.

Evidence of the punch has yet to be uncovered.

Howard, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 20.9 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks this season for the Southeast Division- leading Magic.

Davis made his second start of the season.