2006-07 Season

2006-07: Magic Return to Playoffs
By Melanie Curtsinger | May 14, 2007

Before the focus shifts to the next season, here's a month-by-month look back at how the 2006-07 season played out for the Orlando Magic:

Unlike in previous seasons, when the Magic came together in Jacksonville for training camp at the University of North Florida, they were virtually the same squad that left the previous April. Carlos Arroyo, Darko Milicic and Trevor Ariza joined the crew late in the 2005-06 season, but were now joining the young core of the Magic in their first training camp in an Orlando uniform. Add in the two draft picks from the summer, J.J. Redick and James Augustine, and the Magic’s lone free agent signing for the summer Keith Bogans, back for his second stint with the team, and that completed Orlando’s roster, ending a pretty uneventful summer for the Magic.

With the 2005-06 squad falling just short once again of a playoff bid, the group came together this year with one clear focus: making the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The squad made it through a pretty physical camp without many problems. Possibly the biggest news of the 5-day stay in Jacksonville was when Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard collided on a pick-and-roll play during a practice session on day four. Nelson ended up with stitches and a mild concussion from the incident and sat out for the final scrimmage on Saturday. Joining him was Redick, who saw very limited action in training camp while still resting his left foot due to a soft tissue tear, and Arroyo, Tony Battie and Hedo Turkoglu, who all had minor ailments after the long week.

If the preseason was an indication, the Magic were off to a hot start to the season, winning their first three preseason games and ending the eight-game preseason slate with a 6-2 record.

The regular season got underway on November 1 at Amway Arena with the Magic hosting the new-look Chicago Bulls, anchored behind former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace, who switched cities in the off-season. With the Bulls among the preseason favorites in the Eastern Conference, Orlando picked up an impressive victory against them to begin their 2006-07 campaign, a 105-94 win. The Magic came back two nights later, losing to the Philadelphia 76ers courtesy of an Allen Iverson game-winning shot with 2.2 seconds left on the clock.

After another loss at the Atlanta Hawks, an undeterred Magic squad finally came together, bouncing back from those consecutive losses to reel off 11 wins in their next 13 games to end the month of November. For their accomplishments, Head Coach Brian Hill was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month and Dwight Howard was honored as the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for the second consecutive period (he also won the award in April of 2006, the last month of the 2005-06 regular season).

Howard averaged 17.1 points on .576 shooting and a league-high 13.6 rebounds while leading the Magic to an Eastern Conference best 12-4 record. He ended the month of November with seven consecutive double-doubles (points-rebounds), beginning on Nov. 18 when he recorded 24 points and 21 rebounds vs. Charlotte, and had 11 overall in the month, including three 20-point/20-rebounds outings (two of those three were on back-to-back nights, Nov.18 and 20).

The Magic closed out the month of November and opened December with a west coast road trip, successfully going 4-2, including a buzzer-beating win at Portland and a decisive victory over the red-hot Utah Jazz, only their third win in Salt Lake City over the last 10 years. But, Orlando hit a tough stretch of schedule mid-month, falling to NBA powers the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers before Christmas break. The injury bug also started to creep into play, as Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson each missed significant time in December tending to injuries on the inactive list. Without their presence in the lineup, Orlando limped into January with a 6-10 record for the month, but not before handing the Miami Heat their worst loss of the season to date, 97-68, behind Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza’s combined 34 points on Dec. 30.

The victory over the Heat seemed to spark the Magic back into action, as it started what would be a five-game winning streak in the month of January. The last victory in that stand came on January 10, which was also the first game in yet another west coast road trip for the club. Full of confidence, Orlando traveled to Golden State and easily came out with a 91-76 victory, and the squad could only hope this trip would turn out as well as the last. However, the Magic did lose something in that game to the Warriors – Trevor Ariza. Ariza had been a fixture on the court for Orlando in December and early January, averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 rebounds in 31.2 minutes of play while shooting over 50 percent from the field in his last nine games, but he suffered a sprained MCL of his right knee during the contest that would put him on the sidelines for the next 19 contests.

After Ariza went down, coincidentally or not, the Magic went on a losing stretch, winning only two more games the entire month of January. After that Golden State game, Orlando had a record of 22-14. By the time January 31 rolled around, the squad had dipped to 24-22. The Magic hadn’t been one game above .500 since the first two weeks of the regular season.

Orlando finished up January with a win over the Milwaukee Bucks and continued that with a 119-86 victory, their largest of the season, over the New Jersey Nets in a nationally televised game on ESPN at Amway Arena on Feb. 2. The Magic held Jason Kidd scoreless as all but one of the 12 active Magic players scored in the game, including James Augustine, who saw his first action of the season in the contest. Unfortunately for the team though, that momentum couldn’t be sustained, as Orlando lost the next three, reaching .500 at 25-25 after a 113-103 loss February 7 at Toronto.

The injury bug hit yet again in February, as Tony Battie fractured his right thumb and missed 15 games on the inactive list, beginning Feb. 9 against the San Antonio Spurs. Darko Milicic was inserted into the lineup in place of Battie, but it was Dwight Howard who stole the show that night with one of the best plays in Orlando Magic history. With .8 left on the clock and the ball out of bounds in front of the Spurs’ bench, Hedo Turkoglu made an incredible pass to Howard, who caught the ball in the air and made an alley-oop dunk over Tim Duncan to give the Magic the 106-104 victory at the buzzer. It was the first game-winner of Howard’s career and it was enough to keep the Magic above the .500 mark.

Howard’s dunk was just the tip of the iceberg, as he left a week later bound for Las Vegas and the 2007 NBA All-Star game. Howard was selected by the Eastern Conference coaches to the All-Star team, and he also agreed to participate in this year’s Slam Dunk Contest. Going against Gerald Green, Tyrus Thomas and Nate Robinson, Howard knew he had to come up with something creative to score points against the little guys. Enter the now infamous “sticker dunk.” With his left hand, Howard reached high on the glass and slapped a sticker of his smiling face on the backboard. With his right, the 21-year-old threw down a perfect one-handed dunk. Teammate Jameer Nelson then broke out a tape measure to size up Howard's sticker placement and the two then held up a 12 feet, 6 inches sign to indicate how high Howard had gone on the backboard.

However, his creativity wasn't rewarded by the panel of former Slam Dunk champions. Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins only gave him an eight, while Vince Carter and Kobe Bryant offered a nine.

After receiving a 43 with his first dunk, the 45 on the second dunk wasn't enough to make it to the next round. Green's 95 points and Robinson's 90 lifted them to the next round, while Howard (85) and Thomas (80) were sent to the bench.

In the All-Star game, however, Howard came back with a vengeance. The young center had an impressive showing in his All-Star Game debut, finishing with a double-double by scoring 20 points and adding 12 rebounds - despite the East squad's lopsided loss to the West.

Despite all of his activities at the All-Star break, Howard did not get any time for R&R afterwards, as the Magic immediately left town for a back-to-back set against the Knicks and Pistons, both of which they lost. That set the tone for the end of a very difficult portion of Orlando’s schedule in February, as they also fell to the Pistons at home again, at Denver and, despite Ariza’s return to the court, also dropped a decision to the Houston Rockets. When it was all said and done, Orlando ended the month losing five of their last six and now found themselves more than six games behind Washington in the race for the Southeast Division, but still in playoff contention.

The schedule in the beginning of March did not ease any of the Magic’s pains, as back-to-back losses at San Antonio and Dallas started the month on the wrong foot. Orlando finally broke through with a win at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 5, but the schedule was once again unkind to Orlando, as they dropped their next three against Chicago, Houston and Charlotte. With only 17 games remaining in the season, the Magic found themselves sitting at 29-36 and in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Considering the fact that the Magic were atop the Southeast Division for much of the first two months of the season, the Magic needed to turn things back around – and in a hurry. Battie finally returned to the lineup on March 14 against the Jazz at home, and with a full roster for the first time since around mid-December, the Magic took care of the Jazz for the second time this season, 101-90. Orlando then went on to win at Miami for the second time this season, and pulled out another good road win at New York. With those key victories, along with a few wins at home at Amway Arena, Orlando was suddenly back into the thick of things after winning five of their last eight games in the month of March.

Building off of March's turn of events, the Magic continued on their push towards meeting their goal from the beginning of the season – making the playoffs. Two losses at home to Minnesota and Atlantic Division champ Toronto slightly derailed their vision, but just as the team did in the 2005-06 season, the Magic made a strong push at the end with their backs up against the wall. With a virtual three-team race for the last two spots of the Eastern Conference standings, the Magic won two of their next three, including a 104-87 win at Philadelphia that mathematically eliminated the 76ers from the playoff race. Now it was down to Orlando and Indiana for the last seed – and with a Pacers loss, Orlando had a chance to lock up their playoff berth the very next day at home against Boston. With most of their key players on the bench, the Celtics made a valiant effort at the end but fell short of upsetting Orlando, as the Magic won 88-86. Now, with all eight teams in, it was a matter of who was going to be what seed. With New Jersey locking up No. 7, Orlando needed Washington to lose its last two games in combination with two Magic victories to move up and avoid playing No. 1 seed Detroit in the first round. The first game took care of itself, as the two teams met up on April 17 at Washington and Orlando rolled to a 95-89 victory. With the Magic at home against Miami for their regular season finale, and the Wizards, who had lost eight of nine games, at Indiana to finish up the season, things were optimistic in Magic camp. In the end, however, Orlando took care of business against the Heat, but Washington also overcame the odds and won at Indiana, leaving them in the seventh position and the Magic in eighth.

With their goal met, the Magic were on to Detroit to face the Pistons in their first playoff game since 2003, coincidentally also against these very same Pistons. Having advanced to the conference finals the previous four seasons, Detroit was a tough match-up for the young Magic squad, especially considering seven Magic players were seeking their first playoff experience, including Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. With only two days off between the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, Orlando went into the Palace of Auburn Hills and gave two valiant efforts against the Pistons in games one and two. Despite never leading in Game #1, committing 20 turnovers and shooting a paltry 18-of-36 from the line, Orlando cut the lead to three with less than a minute remaining, but a Tayshaun Prince dunk forced the Magic to foul down the stretch and eventually cost them Game #1, 100-92.

The Magic knew they would need to clean up their turnovers and correct their situation at the line in order to have a shot at Game #2. Grant Hill and Hedo Turkoglu scored 21 and 22 points, respectively, but it wasn’t enough to stop the balanced Detroit attack. Once again, the Magic made the game interesting late, coming with six points twice in the last 1:29 of play, but Detroit in the end forced the series back to Orlando with the Pistons up 2-0 after a 98-90 win.

Code Blue had been activated back at Amway Arena when the Magic returned back home, but it was too little too late again, as the Pistons took control of Game #3, winning 93-77. Game #4 wasn’t as easy, as the Pistons went cold in the beginning of the final game of the series, missing 11 of 13 shots in the quarter to dig themselves a five-point hole, 85-80 with about three minutes remaining. But the veteran team kept their composure down the stretch. Rasheed Wallace hit a 3-pointer that made it 85-83. Chris Webber followed with a hook shot in the lane, and then Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton took over, combining to score Detroit's final 12 points. The duo also went 6-of-6 from the free throw line in the final 21 seconds to seal the series sweep.

Dwight Howard had 29 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Magic. He ended the game 10-of-15 from the field and 9-of-17 from the free throw line, while Grant Hill added 17 points for Orlando and Darko Milicic had 14 – half of them in the closing minutes.

Melanie Curtsinger is a communications coordinator for the Orlando Magic

2006-07 Magic Regular Statistics

 Dwight Howard 82 82 36.9 .603 .500 .586 3.50 8.80 12.30 1.9 .85 1.90 3.87 3.00 17.6
 Grant Hill 65 64 30.9 .518 .167 .765 .80 2.80 3.60 2.1 .94 .38 2.22 2.20 14.4
 Hedo Turkoglu 73 73 31.1 .419 .388 .781 .80 3.20 4.00 3.2 .96 .22 1.96 3.00 13.3
 Jameer Nelson 77 77 30.3 .430 .335 .828 .60 2.40 3.10 4.3 .95 .06 2.39 2.90 13.0
 Trevor Ariza 57 7 22.4 .539 .000 .620 1.70 2.60 4.40 1.1 1.04 .33 1.47 2.40 8.9
 Darko Milicic 80 16 23.9 .454 .000 .613 1.80 3.70 5.50 1.1 .55 1.75 1.55 2.70 8.0
 Keyon Dooling 66 2 21.7 .410 .323 .809 .30 1.00 1.30 1.7 .79 .23 1.09 1.90 7.9
 Carlos Arroyo 72 5 18.1 .425 .275 .795 .40 1.40 1.90 2.8 .54 .03 1.25 1.80 7.7
 Tony Battie 66 66 23.9 .489 .000 .675 1.40 3.80 5.20 .5 .44 .45 .92 2.80 6.1
 J.J. Redick 42 0 14.8 .410 .388 .900 .20 1.00 1.20 .9 .29 .00 .50 1.20 6.0
 Keith Bogans 59 18 16.8 .404 .387 .746 .30 1.30 1.60 1.0 .47 .03 .78 1.70 5.1
 Travis Diener 26 0 11.1 .425 .360 .800 .10 .60 .70 1.3 .15 .00 .50 1.00 3.8
 Pat Garrity 33 0 8.4 .314 .344 .889 .40 .90 1.30 .4 .21 .00 .42 1.10 2.2
 Bo Outlaw 41 0 11.2 .667 .000 .591 1.10 1.40 2.60 .4 .41 .15 .51 1.40 2.0
 James Augustine 2 0 3.5 .333 .000 .000 .50 1.00 1.50 1.0 .00 .00 .00 1.00 1.0
Team Averages 82 0 241.2 .472 .356 .702 11.2 29.5 40.7 18.6 6.9 5.1 17.0 23.2 94.8
Opponents 82 0 241.2 .442 .353 .760 10.5 27.0 37.6 19.6 8.3 4.6 15.0 23.4 94.0
created: 07/19/2007,12:07 AM

 Dwight Howard 82 82 3,023 526-873 1-2 390-666 283 725 1,008 158 70 156 317 245 1,443
 Jameer Nelson 77 77 2,331 376-875 65-194 183-221 50 186 236 330 73 5 184 225 1,000
 Hedo Turkoglu 73 73 2,268 345-823 109-281 171-219 57 236 293 233 70 16 143 221 970
 Grant Hill 65 64 2,009 342-660 2-12 248-324 53 184 237 138 61 25 144 146 934
 Darko Milicic 80 16 1,913 249-548 0-1 141-230 145 292 437 90 44 140 124 219 639
 Carlos Arroyo 72 5 1,304 203-478 14-51 132-166 31 103 134 202 39 2 90 131 552
 Keyon Dooling 66 2 1,435 188-458 31-96 114-141 22 64 86 112 52 15 72 125 521
 Trevor Ariza 57 7 1,278 200-371 0-7 106-171 98 151 249 65 59 19 84 134 506
 Tony Battie 66 66 1,575 176-360 0-1 52-77 92 252 344 35 29 30 61 185 404
 Keith Bogans 59 18 990 99-245 53-137 47-63 16 77 93 59 28 2 46 98 298
 J.J. Redick 42 0 622 80-195 38-98 54-60 10 42 52 36 12 0 21 52 252
 Travis Diener 26 0 288 34-80 18-50 12-15 3 15 18 35 4 0 13 27 98
 Bo Outlaw 41 0 460 34-51 0-0 13-22 47 59 106 16 17 6 21 57 81
 Pat Garrity 33 0 277 22-70 11-32 16-18 12 30 42 14 7 0 14 37 71
 James Augustine 2 0 7 1-3 0-0 0-0 1 2 3 2 0 0 0 2 2
Team Totals 82 0 19,780 2,875-6,090 342-962 1,679-2,393 920 2,418 3,338 1,525 565 416 1,392 1,904 7,771
Opponents 82 0 -- 2,739-6,191 461-1,306 1,768-2,327 865 2,217 3,082 1,609 678 376 1,232 1,921 7,707
created: 07/19/2007,12:07 AM