Denton: Magic-Warriors Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 3, 2011

ORLANDO – Watching the way Hedo Turkoglu perfectly baited the defense by driving hard down the lane and then kicking out to a wide-open shooter for one 3-pointer after another, Jameer Nelson came to a conclusion that should simultaneously delight Orlando Magic fans and puzzle those in Toronto and Phoenix.

``It’s almost like Turk never left,’’ Nelson said, referring to Turkoglu’s stellar play in Orlando back in 2009 before he left for Toronto and then Phoenix the past two seasons. ``He’s the same Turk all over again with the same personality and we know how he’s going to play. He’s comfortable with us and he’s been great again in our system.’’

Whereas Turkoglu was a free-agent flop in Toronto and mostly miscast as a spot-up shooter in Phoenix, his career seems re-born again in Orlando – the same sight of his greatest days in the NBA from 2004-09. Back with the ball in his hands in Orlando, Turkoglu delivered a triple-double Monday night with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the Magic stormed past Golden State 110-90 at Amway Arena.

For Turkoglu, it was the third triple-double of his career – all with the Magic. The other two came during the 2007-08 season when Turkoglu enjoyed a career season and won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. Considering how much of a non-factor he was the past two seasons in Toronto and Phoenix, he might actually be up for the bounce-back honor again in Orlando.

``When I have the ball in my hands I’m able to do the things that I’m good at,’’ said Turkoglu, who set season highs in rebounds (14) and assists (10) and a career high in steals (five). ``It’s not like I want the ball in my hands all the time or we have to run everything through me. But here they use my strengths as a facilitator to create shots for my teammates. As long as I can do those things, we’ll win games and I’ll be really happy about it.’’

Dwight Howard, the recipient of several Turkoglu lob passes, had 22 points and 17 rebounds and eight Magic players scored in double figures as Orlando (22-12) won its sixth consecutive game. Jason Richardson scored 20 points, making four of Orlando’s 15 3-point shots.

``Every game, every practice we’re all feeling more comfortable with the system here,’’ said Richardson, who along with Gilbert Arenas, Earl Clark and Turkoglu are in their eighth game with the Magic since two blockbuster trades. ``We know this team could be a contender for a championship. We know that if we play well, we’ve got a good chance to win every game we play here.’’

Turkoglu’s triple-double – the 18th in team history and the first since Howard’s last November – didn’t become official until he hit a fastbreak 3-pointer with 1:56 to play and a pass-ahead assist to J.J. Redick with 59.7 seconds left. Clearly aware of what he had just done, Turkoglu waved his arms and danced all the way back up the floor.

Not that there weren’t a few tense moments before then.

``I knew that he was close. When he threw the ball to me and I didn’t shoot, he yelled at me and I was like, `What’s going on?’ He said, `I need an assist,’’’ Richardson joked. ``We wanted to get him a triple-double because they are very rare and hard to come by. In that situation, the guy is so close that you want him to get it.’’

Joked Turkoglu: ``It was really painful those last few minutes. I was telling my teammates to shoot the ball and they kept passing it out and it was (ticking) me off. J.J. did and I’m glad I did something to help our team win the game.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Monday night’s Magic pull-away in the second half at Amway Center: