Around the Amway -- January 21, 2011



By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive

MAGIC THRASH RAPTORS
By Josh Cohen

There are justifiable reasons why Dwight Howard is also referred to as Superman to everyone who adores him. He has superhuman strength, speed and at times is invulnerable to any villainous opponent.

On Friday against the Toronto Raptors – an adversary he has always flourished against – Howard enjoyed one of those indomitable nights. He registered 31 points and 19 rebounds and didn’t even need to step on the court in the fourth quarter as Orlando crushed Toronto, 112-72.

"I was just trying to be dominant on the offensive end," Howard said.

It was the sixth time this season D12 has recorded at least 30 points. Against the Raptors in the First Round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs – a series Orlando won in five games -- Howard recorded three 20-20 efforts.

Howard was so supreme and overriding on Friday that his teammates didn’t need to deliver anything spectacular – like four-point plays or double-digit 3-point made totals.

Somewhat of a rarity since the Magic completed two blockbuster trades in December, but just three others besides Dwight reached in double figures in scoring. Ryan Anderson poured in 21 points, J.J. Redick scored 12 and Brandon Bass had 10.

Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas combined to dish out 15 assists.

But perhaps even more impressive than Dwight’s sensational effort was the Magic’s stifling defense – a department Orlando has struggled in all season.

Toronto, which heading into Friday’s action was ranked 12th in the league in points per game (100.1), was limited to its lower scoring output of the season. It shot just 35 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3-point distance.

The Magic visit the Houston Rockets on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Watch the action on Sun Sports.

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PUTTING THE SUPER IN SUPERMAN
By Dan Savage

It’s easy to take Magic superstar center Dwight Howard for granted.

He performs at such a high level so consistently that for him, the extraordinary becomes ordinary.

But on Friday, Howard dismantled the Raptors interior so efficiently and effectively that he was immensely impressive even by Superman standards.

Orlando’s center erupted for a phenomenal 31 points and 19 rebounds in just three quarters of action to help the Magic steamroll the Raptors for a 112-72 victory in front of a dazzled Amway Center crowd.

“There are not a lot of people that can do that,” an amazed Ryan Anderson proclaimed. “Sometimes it looks like, actually all the time it looks like he’s playing against high school kids.”

With only an undersized Raptors frontline standing in his path and Toronto Head Coach Jay Triano opting to throw single coverage at Howard for much of the night, D12 didn’t just dominate, he struck fear into the opposition.

“I guess when the young fellas over there are scared of him, it’s easy to dominate them,” Gilbert Arenas marveled. “You could see it in their faces; most teams don’t want to face him one-on-one and they got tired and they got killed doing it.”

Along with putting up a sensational scoring line, Howard controlled the glass.

And while grabbing nine offensive rebounds would normally be the jaw-dropping statistic of the evening, the Magic’s Superman delivered an even greater one that had the eyes of statisticians popping out of their sockets. He singlehandedly outrebounded the entire Toronto starting lineup (19-18).

“He’s good,” Triano admitted. “We’re not.”

Well said Jay, well said.

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REMEMBERING DWIGHT'S EPIC SERIES
By Josh Cohen

Any time the Orlando Magic play the Toronto Raptors, I can’t help but reminisce Dwight Howard’s outstanding and memorable individual accomplishment during the 2008 NBA Playoffs.

In a series that generally was one-sided – with the Magic prevailing in five games -- Howard stole the show against the Raptors with three 20-20 performances.

He became the first player to record three 20-20’s in a playoff series since Wilt Chamberlain achieved this feat during the 1972 NBA Finals.

Largely because it was only in the First Round, D12’s awesome effort sometimes gets overlooked as one of the greatest, most remarkable individual performances in NBA playoff history.

Take a look at his statistics:

Game 1: 25 points (8-for-13 shooting from field, 9-of-11 from line), 22 rebounds, five blocks

Game 2: 29 points (12-for-17 shooting from field, 5-of-9 from line), 20 rebounds, three blocks

Game 3 (Magic’s only loss): 19 points, 12 rebounds

Game 4: 19 points (9-for-12 shooting from field), 16 rebounds, eight blocks

Game 5: 21 points (7-of-12 shooting from field, 7-of-10 from line), 21 rebounds, three blocks

It’s possible that if the Magic advanced further in the playoffs that season (lost in conference semifinals to Detroit), Howard’s performance would be regarded as even more remarkable.

It was only fitting on Friday that Dwight enjoyed one of his most dominant performances of the season with 31 points and 19 rebounds without even needing to play in the fourth quarter.
MEMORABLE WIN OR DOMINANT WIN?
By Josh Cohen

It’s hard to say what’s a more satisfying and desirable kind of victory.

In one situation, the heart races faster than Forrest Gump thundering across a football field while the conversations afterwards are as voluble as a clan of teenage girls during lunch chatting about all the gossip around their high school.

In the other circumstance, you feel a certain degree of relief like you learned that your teacher was absent and as a result, you didn’t have to take that arduous midterm that day.

It’s a direct comparison of what transpired Wednesday and what emerged on Friday.

Electrifying win or Blowout win?

At the end of the night, it’s difficult to pass up on those memorable finishes like two unimaginable four-point plays and a defensive stop that left everyone in the arena holding their breath.

But once all the celebration from such an exhilarating triumph dies down, a lopsided victory like the Magic had against the Raptors is probably more preferred.

Since the ultimate aspiration is for Orlando to capture its first NBA championship, winning convincingly is probably the more ideal scenario.

But in the moment, there is perhaps nothing more exciting than witnessing something out of the ordinary. Everyone always wants to say they were there when something amazing happened.

All in all, though, a win is a win and no matter how it is earned, it is worth talking about.
OTIS ANSWERS FANS' QUESTIONS
By Dan Savage

Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith recently answered a number of fan questions, including how the Magic have adjusted to mid-season trades, what Gilbert Arenas can do to improve and how Orlando matches up with the East's elite.

Here's a look at his exchange with a few Magic fans:

Question: How come you always stand in that hallway no matter what arena your in? Can't they get a GM a chair! – Mike, Orlando

Otis: “I’m comfortable standing. I guess it’s nervous energy.”

Question: How do you teach and inspire leadership and growth in those around you? And what qualities do you value and think are important for success? Thank you for your time. – Ben

Otis: “I think it’s important to push people to grow. Sometimes, people get comfortable in their own skin and they are afraid to step out on their own. Timeliness is also huge for me. You can’t do anything if you are not on time. Ability to adapt to situations, whatever you may face, you have to be able to adapt. Also, ‘can’t do’ is not in the dictionary. You have to be willing to try and figure out different ways to do different things.”

Question: What two areas must this team improve to make a serious run at a championship? – Paul, Greenwich, CT

Otis: “I think you have to get better defensively; which we are. We also need to shoot free throws a lot better than we are as a team. When it comes down to the postseason the games are going to be pretty close.”

READ ENTIRE Q&A WITH OTIS>>>
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