Around the Amway - March 1, 2011
By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive
The action was so furious, the drama was so climactic and the intensity inside the building was electric it felt like it was a Game 7 of a playoff series.
Dwight Howard enjoyed another monster performance (30 points, 16 rebounds), Jameer Nelson delivered an epic fourth quarter effort (14 of his 26 in the final frame) and both Ryan Anderson and Quentin Richardson provided huge boosts off the bench as the Magic edged the Knicks, 116-110.
After Orlando opened up a 12-point advantage in the first quarter, the Knicks stormed back behind their terrific trio and outscored the Magic by 22 in the second.
But toward the end of the third quarter, momentum shifted and the Magic began to exercise their depth and precision that ultimately turned out to be the difference.
Similar to a performance he had against the Heat earlier this season, Nelson’s confidence in the final several minutes was soaring despite having to contend with his arch nemesis Chauncey Billups.
After Hedo Turkoglu was ejected for picking up his second technical in the second quarter, Q-Rich entered and made an immediate difference. Aside from hitting some pivotal shots, the 11-year veteran played lockdown defense against New York’s prized trade deadline addition Carmelo Anthony.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Billups each registered 30 points, while Anthony contributed 25 on just 8-of-24 shooting from the field.
Howard, meanwhile, became the youngest player in NBA history to record 7,000 career rebounds.
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He’s undeniably that important to the franchise’s success.
Orlando’s starting point guard simply has the ability to turn the Magic from a contender into a near-championship lock, when he catches fire and aggressively attacks the rack. And that’s exactly what he did on Tuesday night.
Mighty Mouse transformed into superhero mode and exploded for 14 of his season-high 26 points in the final frame to lift the Magic over the Knicks for a thrilling 116-110 triumph at Amway Center.
“What Jameer did in the fourth quarter was pretty unbelievable,” marveled Ryan Anderson. “He had 14 points in the fourth quarter and really carried our run.”
Under the guidance of his head coach and along with the advice of co-captain Dwight Howard, Nelson has made a commitment since the All-Star break to be more aggressive.
“It was good to see him be aggressive on the offensive end, come off screens and attack the basket,” Howard explained. “It’s something I’ve been telling him to do a lot.”
After watching his starting point guard struggle in the first half against New York, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy opted to call a few high pick-and-rolls to get Nelson going. He responded by becoming more aggressive and converting possessions into points.
“I just have to stay on the attack and make plays,” Nelson said.
That’s exactly what Orlando will need if it hopes to bring home its first championship this season.
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We already know how exhilarating a Magic vs. Celtics series is and we can already speculate how electrifying Magic vs. Heat would be.
After Tuesday’s game, indubitably, an Orlando vs. New York prospective playoff series would not disappoint.
The atmosphere inside Amway Center was stirring – to say the least.
Since the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony prior to the trade deadline in a blockbuster three-team deal, the city of New York has renewed its passion for the NBA. As a result, when the Knicks are in town you definitely can feel the additional energy.
There would be plenty of awesome storylines if the Magic played the Knicks in the postseason for the first time ever.
For one, an exceptional inside battle between Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire would be must-watch television. It would be a homecoming of sorts for Amar’e since he played his high school ball in central Florida.
Secondly, it would be an opportunity for the Magic to earn some revenge against one of their nemeses from the past. While contending for championships with the Pistons, Chauncey Billups had a history of breaking Orlando’s hearts.
Also, it would be intriguing for the Magic to be the first team to play in New York for an NBA playoff game since 2004.
While it remains somewhat of a long shot for Orlando and New York to meet in the First Round, if it does happen, it would be terrific entertainment.
Along with the eminent Carmelo Anthony, who the Knicks acquired in a blockbuster three-team deal prior to the trade deadline last week, it was Anthony Carter, Toney Douglas, Shelden Williams and Bill Walker wearing blue and orange.
Not exactly a star-studded supporting cast for ‘Melo to join forces with.
While the trio of Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups automatically makes New York a formidable threat to any opponent, their lack of depth clearly makes then vulnerable to discouraging stretches.
The Magic demonstrated to the Knicks that it takes a complete team to finish games. While Dwight Howard flourished like he always does, Orlando’s role players elevated their games and delivered a spectacular effort.
Jameer Nelson, for one, recorded 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, Ryan Anderson buried several critical 3-pointers and perhaps the most unexpected, Quentin Richardson provided a huge boost with timely scoring and stifling defense on ‘Melo.
Similar to what is developing in Miami with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Knicks are basically formulating on a three-man system.
As we all analyzed when the Heat united their big three stars, it remains mysterious if a team that relies so heavily on just a few players can outduel teams that incorporate more depth.
NBA history has generally shown that teams that showcase two superstars (ex. Jordan/Pippen, Shaq/Kobe, Magic/Kareem) and possess several reliable role players are most likely to capture NBA championships.
But instead of sitting around pouting, the two reserves have been diligently putting in work and supporting their squad from the sidelines.
Their ability to stay locked in paid huge dividens for Orlando against New York when both Duhon and Richardson’s numbers were called. With Gilbert Arenas out due to a sprained left knee and Hedo Turkoglu ejected as a result of two technical fouls, the Magic needed both of them to pull off a victory over the Knicks.
Richardson played tough defense on Carmelo Anthony and posted 10 points and five rebounds, while Duhon dished out a team-high five assists in just 13 minutes of action.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for guys who do what Q and Chris did tonight,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “They’ve been out of the rotation now for a long time and to come in, in a big game like that, in big situations and play well, I think that says lot about who they are as professionals and I couldn’t be happier.”