Around the Amway - March 25, 2011
By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive
Although it was more of a struggle than they would have hoped against a Deron Williams-less Nets team and considering the fact that injuries plagued Orlando as well, the Magic played resourcefully and cohesively to earn their fifth straight victory on Friday.
The combination of balanced scoring, stifling defense and a willingness to be unselfish at pivotal points of the game were all very noticeable as the Magic try to finish the regular season strong.
Dwight Howard recorded 21 points and 14 rebounds, Hedo Turkoglu tallied 20 points, 13 assists and zero turnovers and three others, including Jason Richardson (16), Ryan Anderson (15) and Brandon Bass (14), scored in double figures.
"I think Hedo's our best playmaker," Bass said about Turkoglu. "Nights like this we get to see a 6'10 point guard do his thing."
Jameer Nelson sprained his left knee late in the first half and did not return. As a result, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Duhon shared point guard responsibilities the rest of the way.
Though it was an offensive struggle for both of them, they each remained committed defensively and Duhon connected on two critical buckets late to help seal the win.
In addition, the Magic set a franchise record for fewest fouls in a game committing only seven.
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When Turk is turning the corner on pick-and-rolls, attacking the basket, looking for his shot, as well as finding Dwight Howard under the rim, the Magic look like a dominant title contender.
As Turkoglu’s play has improved over the past five games, Orlando has started to play some of its best basketball of the season.
That trend continued on Friday as Mr. Fourth Quarter notched 20 points and 13 assists without committing a single turnover to lift the Magic to a 95-85 home triumph over the Nets.
“The last four or five games, I’ve been looking for my shot more,” he explained. “I’m trying to be more aggressive right now.”
Earlier this season, Turk fell into the bad habit of attempting predetermine some plays when he had the ball in his hand. Now, he’s surveying the court as each play develops and then looking to make the right decision.
“He’s sometimes his own worst enemy, trying to predetermine what he’s going to do and not taking in what the defense gives him,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “There’s no reason for him to do that because he has all the skills.”
Now, all he has to do is continue his solid play as Orlando gears up for the postseason.
“He’s been playing pretty good as of late; he just has to keep it up,” All-Star center Dwight Howard said. “He has to be aggressive.”
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Although the Magic managed to overcome the absence of a few pivotal teammates on Friday behind timely fourth quarter shooting from both Hedo Turkoglu and Ryan Anderson, they had to endure Jameer Nelson’s departure at the end of the first half.
Nelson sprained his left knee and while it is not believed to be serious, the Magic must be careful with how much strain they place on the ailing down the stretch.
Especially after what we saw on Thursday when David West tore his ACL and was pronounced out for the season, it’s imperative for every team to be very cautious with any discomfort that certain players are experiencing.
In addition to Nelson and Redick, Quentin Richardson missed Friday’s game with back spasms and of course Daniel Orton is still rehabilitating from knee surgery.
It’s also apparent that Gilbert Arenas, although he hasn’t missed much action since joining the Magic in December, is still not 100 percent after dealing with persistent knee problems the last three years.
As long as everyone is healthy by the start of the playoffs, the Magic will be much more confident and poised to make a deep run and challenge for the NBA championship.
Largely because it was chasing the L.A. Lakers for the second best record in the NBA and a guarantee to get home court advantage in The Finals if they had advanced that far, Orlando did not rest its players in the last several games. It will be intriguing to see what it does this season.
While Head Coach Stan Van Gundy’s central focus is on encouraging his players to limit turnovers, stay relentless on defense and keep battling on the glass, Magic fans should definitely keep an eye on the rest of the competition in the East as they scrabble for postseason position.
Likelihood insists that the Magic will probably clash with the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round, but the Philadelphia 76ers believe otherwise. After starting 3-13, the Sixers have dramatically transformed their season and remain in the hunt to catch the Hawks.
The Sixers were neck-and-neck with the Heat all night Friday before Miami surged ahead in the final few minutes. As a result, Philadelphia is now three games behind Atlanta and Miami is three and a half in front of Orlando.
Meanwhile, the race to the No. 1 seed, which is pivotal for Orlando since it would likely play against that opponent in the conference semifinals, is tight.
In a stunner, the Bobcats rallied back from a double-digit deficit to edge the Celtics. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett each missed potential game-winning 3-pointers in the final seconds. In effect, Boston’s lead on Miami for the No. 2 seed is down to a half game.
It also allowed the Bulls to expand their lead for the No. 1 spot to two games after their triumph over the Grizzlies.
Keep watching because it should be a very interesting finish to the regular season.
In order to help generate a deeper team bond, Orlando has decided that each member will go unshaven until the end of the team’s playoff run.
“It’s one of those team things,” Jason Richardson explained. “Togetherness. It’s something fun at the same time. It’s going to definitely look funny, I know.”
There was some initial debate about whether the team should go with shaved heads instead, but that idea was shot down in favor of elongated facial hair.
“The beard is the only way to go,” said Dwight Howard. “It’ll be tough for me and the young guys to really get it going, but we’re all in this together.”
One of those young guys with some reservation about bringing the bearded tradition from hockey to hoops is rookie center Daniel Orton.
“So everybody else on the team is growing their beards out,” he said via his official Twitter account. “I can barely grow any facial hair. This will be interesting.”
While the Fear the Beard campaign was initially generated for the team, the Magic are already encouraging fans to join in on the action.
“If you wanna show ur passion and support for us in the playoffs guys can join in on the fear the beard and for the ladies I need some suggestions but I say paint your fingernails magic,” Howard added via his Twitter account.
So now the only question is, will you ditch your razor in favor of the new BE MAGIC look?