Around the Amway -- January 24, 2011

By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive

By Josh Cohen

With countless intriguing moments stored in Magic fans’ heads already during this peculiar season, it almost seemed inevitable Orlando would climb out of a fourth quarter deficit and steal a victory away from the Detroit Pistons.

But unlike recent instances – including late-game heroic shots, unimaginable four-point plays and dominant second-half performances, Monday’s outing was simply ordinary and that on this occasion wasn’t good enough.

The Magic slipped to their familiar foes, 103-96 – leaving a mystified and befuddling feeling afterwards.

Orlando had previously won five straight against a team that once haunted it time and time again. Detroit eliminated Orlando in three playoff series over the last several years (2003, 2007, 2008) before the Magic turned the corner and became the governing team in this once-heated, but always entertaining, rivalry.

Dwight Howard finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds and Ryan Anderson continued his offensive excellence with 21 points. But outside of those two, Orlando, which had beforehand won eight straight at home, struggled to find production from the rest of its lineup.

"Didn't have the energy, played their style, played a slow-paced game," Jason Richardson said. "We definitely hate to give up games like this."

A very familiar face to Orlando – once conqueror turned antagonist – Tracy McGrady enjoyed one of his best efforts of the season for the Pistons. T-Mac erupted for 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists.

Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye each contributed with 20 points for Detroit, which continue to rise in the Eastern Conference standings.

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By Dan Savage

There was a time that Detroit Pistons were a nightmare for the Orlando Magic.

They were the playground bullies and the Magic were merely little children getting their heads stuffed in the toilet.

During a period where the Pistons went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals, Detroit managed to find a way to eliminate Orlando from the playoffs in three of those years (2003, 2007, 2008).

But my how times have changed.

Orlando is now an Eastern Conference juggernaut and Detroit is merely a team attempting to scrape its way from the bottom of the barrel and find a way into the postseason.

It’s now the Magic who are expected to win – heading into Monday’s affair they had rattled off six consecutive victories against Detroit – and the Pistons who are expected to lose when the two teams go head-to-head.

“It’s not the same anymore,” Jameer Nelson said with a grin. “Still, you always think about it before the game, the butt-kicking they used to give us back in the day.”

Which is why their 103-96 loss to Detroit at the Amway Center was so surprising.

How could Orlando manage to play seemingly without energy against a team that had haunted it for so long? How could the Pistons ever leave Orlando without receiving the Magic’s best effort?

Perhaps, it’s because the Pistons still do one thing the same: Play their brand of basketball regardless of the opponent.

“They play hard and they rough you up,” Nelson explained. “They are just like the rest of all the Detroit teams that ever played the game of basketball. They get after you defensively and slow the ball down offensively."

For one night, the Magic were once again caught in that dangerous trap of playing at the Pistons pace. It’s a game that the Magic should know they can’t win.

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By Josh Cohen

It was kind of like a blast from the past as Tracy McGrady enjoyed one of his best performances of the season with 20 points against his former team.

Although jeered by Magic fans every time he returns as an opponent, it's great for the league to see McGrady playing at a reasonably high level considering all of his recent injury problems.

"I think I have matured as a player and a person over the last couple of years," he said.

Though not nearly the same sensation that once erupted for 62 points with Orlando, T-Mac will always be remembered as one of the most electrifying offensive players in franchise history.

When he arrived in Orlando in 2000, there was much uncertainty about his value to a team that had decided to build around T-Mac.

In spite of Grant Hill’s constant injuries and McGrady being a one-man show each and every night, the seven-time NBA All-Star astounded fans every game with his exhilarating performances.

Named an All-Star every year he played for the Magic, T-Mac earned the Most Improved Player award in 2001 and became a scoring champion in 2003 (32.1 points per game) while nearly helping Orlando pull off one of the most improbable playoff upset in NBA history.

The Magic entered the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and were figured to have nearly no chance of upsetting the Detroit Pistons, a favorite by many that year to win the NBA championship.

McGrady exploded for 46 and 43-point efforts in the first two games of the series and helped the Magic open up a 3-1 series lead.

However, after a premature celebration that he was going to advance to the second round for the first time in his career, the Magic lost three straight games and the series to the Pistons.

I continue to wonder – despite realizing that his days after Orlando were more about injury and recovery than about his play on the court – if T-Mac would have transformed from superstar to megastar if the Magic had won that series.
By Josh Cohen

One of the more intriguing debates each year around the NBA is determining who deserves to play in the All-Star Game.

While it’s pretty simple in deciding the starters since the fans vote for them, it’s somewhat more intricate when choosing the reserves.

Here is the process on how the reserves for both conferences are selected:

Each head coach has to pick seven players (two guards, two forwards, one center and two more regardless of their positions) from the conference he coaches in. Also, each coach is disallowed from choosing his own players.

A common trend throughout NBA history is that coaches tend to favor players on winning teams when settling on their selections. Here are some facts:

Of the 372 total All-Star selections in league history, only 65 of the players were on teams that had a below .500 record and 55 of them were on non-playoff teams.

With standout players such as Blake Griffin and Kevin Love having extraordinary seasons, it will be interesting to see if coaches decide they are worthy of earning an All-Star bid in spite of playing for losing teams. The same can be wondered for Houston’s Kevin Martin, Indiana’s Danny Granger and Golden State’s Monta Ellis.

Everyone has a different definition and interpretation of what being an All-Star means. If you put any of the aforementioned players on any of the current playoff teams, in all likelihood those teams would be even better. As a result, it seems only logical that it’s generally unjustifiable to deny a player from competing in the All-Stars just because they don’t have a quality supporting cast.

Take a look at who I would select to the All-Star Game if the decision had to be made today.

By Dan Savage

  • RYNO’S RAMPAGE: Ryan Anderson apparently has found a way to keep up his torrid pace off the pine for the Orlando Magic.

    For the second time in three games, Anderson matched his career high by firing off a contest-best 21 points.

    Over the last 10 games, the Magic’s backup power forward is averaging 16.1 points per game and has knocked down 44.4 percent of his attempts from downtown.

    But he hasn’t limited his focus to just the offensive end.

    Anderson did his best Dwight Howard impersonation by blocking three shots against the Pistons on Monday and in the process tying his career high.

  • MVP CANDIDATE: Speaking of Howard, if he’s not in your MVP rankings this season, something is wrong.

    The Magic superstar center has been dominating the opposition this season and Monday was no different.

    Howard racked up 20 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks, while knocking down eight of his 13 attempts from the field.

    It marked the 12th game this season, where he has recorded at least 20 points and 15 rebounds.

    That’s just out of this world.

  • A FINE TURKISH DISH: Hedo Turkoglu did not have an effective shooting night for Orlando, making just two of his eight attempts from the floor.

    But he still was able to have an impact on the contest by distributing the ball effectively to his teammates.

    For the eighth time since re-donning a Magic uniform, Turk led Orlando in assists by handing out a game-high seven dimes.
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