Cohen: Magic-Kings Analysis

By Josh Cohen
March 9, 2011

It’s a peculiar enigma, but for reasons mysterious to most, the lowly Sacramento Kings cause problems for the Orlando Magic.

Already a victim a couple of weeks ago to the infantile, but spirited, northern California men in purple and black, the Magic once again found themselves in a barnburner with this same opponent.

But unlike that disappointing night at Amway Center, Orlando – behind a splendid fourth-quarter performance from Jameer Nelson and a clutch 3-pointer from Hedo Turkoglu – figured out a way to eclipse Sacramento and earn some revenge with Wednesday’s victory.

Similar to some of his other spectacular late-game efforts this season – including one recently against the Knicks – Nelson caught fire in the final several minutes and scored eight consecutive Magic points in one stretch. He finished with a season-matching-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.

The most noteworthy single shot, though, was Turkoglu’s with 40 seconds remaining when he drained a wide open 3-pointer from the left wing to extend Orlando’s advantage to five and all but make it virtually impossible for the Kings to overcome.

Observably delighted and invigorated to be back in action following his one-game absence, Dwight Howard didn’t waste any time making an impact on Wednesday.

On the first very possession in Sacramento, Howard effortlessly spun on his defender and flushed home a thunderous one-handed dunk as he immediately made it apparent that he was back and ready to lead his team to a victory.

In spite of dealing with foul trouble throughout and ultimately being disqualified in the final two minutes, D12 recorded his franchise-best 22nd consecutive double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Most impressive about Howard’s performance, however, was the fact that he managed to play superlative defense -- blocking a total of three shots and consistently forcing Sacramento to attempt contested shots in the paint without being excessively aggressive – while dealing with foul issues.

“I think I did a good job of keeping my composure tonight," Howard said.

Aside from analyzing any statistical category or evaluating any notable trends from the game, here are some implicit reactions from the win:

Josh Cohen
• It’s becoming a repetitive argument but there is almost no reason to stop addressing it: Howard should, by and large, be the frontrunner in the MVP race.

No disrespect to the other candidates such as Derrick Rose or Dirk Nowitzki, who indisputably are enjoying spectacular seasons, but Howard’s “value” seems far greater than the other contenders because of how much he alters the complexion of a game.

In contrast from Orlando’s defeat to Portland when Superman was suspended, the Magic noticeably forced the Kings to rely on perimeter jump shots in the second half because of Howard’s intimidating presence.

• It remains a mystery how much pain Turkoglu, who was posting extraordinary statistical marks when he first arrived back in Orlando following December’s two blockbuster trades, is feeling in his right elbow.

While sitting on the bench, Turk was noticeably feeling some aggravation as he kept stretching his arm out in hopes of relieving some of the discomfort. Before any injury-related issues had come up, Hedo looked like the player of old – registering a triple-double in one game and dishing out a career-best 17 assists in another.

• Stan Van Gundy was evidently frustrated following the game because of the team’s lack of defensive intensity and execution. While the hope is that ultimately by the start of the postseason this team will develop some degree of defensive terrorization, there is some reservation about it considering the type of team that is constructed.

Unlike last season when the Magic were more focused on winning through defense, this team since the trades is much more likely to outscore opponents with their premier outside shooters and ability to speed up the game in transition.

Based on what we have witnessed over the last couple of months, the Magic generally play well when they effectively finish fast breaks. On Wednesday, Orlando accumulated 16 fast break points, while Sacramento just had five.

• Especially with the Miami Heat reeling -- losing five straight and the L.A. Lakers coming to South Beach on Thursday -- this road trip for the Magic is a golden opportunity to make a final push for the division title.

Currently just 2.5 back, Orlando travels slightly southward to Oakland for a meeting with the Warriors on Friday and visits the Suns on Sunday for what should be a spectacle considering it will be the first time it plays Phoenix since December's trade. It, subsequently, will square off against the Lakers on Monday and finishes its five-game road trip in Milwaukee next Wednesday.
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