Denton: Magic-Hornets Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 11, 2011

ORLANDO – Another troubling loss by the Orlando Magic on Friday night left head coach Stan Van Gundy questioning his strategies, Dwight Howard wondering what has happened to the team’s closing abilities and Gilbert Arenas clueless as to why the re-tooled squad’s chemistry is still so disjointed.

Orlando’s 99-93 loss to the scrappy New Orleans Hornets, one in which the Magic struggled to get stops all night and decent possessions down the stretch because of turnovers, left some on the team wondering about the direction of a team whose confidence is clearly shaken.

The Magic (34-21) have now lost eight consecutive games against teams with winning records and they are a very mediocre 9-9 over the last 18 games. And the bad news is that the two-time champion Los Angeles Lakers are up next on Sunday at the Amway Center.

``Right now, if you just look at the results, the bottom line is that we can’t beat a good team,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We haven’t been able to play at the level that we need to play, to play (winning) teams like that. It’s going to have to change. We get another chance on Sunday, but we haven’t been able to raise our game to that level. We don’t play hard enough or well enough, bottom line.’’

Another bottom line staring at the Magic today is the fact that franchise center Dwight Howard got just three shot attempts in the second half. His two second-half baskets came off a putback of his own miss and a dunk in transition. Howard finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds, but only four points and eight rebounds came after the intermission.

Van Gundy took the blame for Howard’s inactivity, saying: ``I didn’t get Dwight the ball enough. The free throw shooting scared me off a little bit to be honest, but that’s not a good enough excuse. Especially the way our perimeter guys were playing in the fourth quarter, that ball should have been going in to him and that’s my fault.’’

Howard, one of the Magic’s captains, refused to point fingers and stressed that the Magic have to keep the faith now instead of splintering. ``It’s over now and we need to just focus on doing a better job,’’ Howard said. ``There’s no need for Stan to be on suicide watch.’’

Willie Green torched the Magic for 24 points, while David West pounded the inside with 17 points and 17 rebounds. Chris Paul was contained for the most part 15 points and seven assists for the Hornets (33-22), who were without starting center Emeka Okafor.

``We need to play more consistent in terms of our execution, our energy and our effort,’’ said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who made just three of 11 shots and had seven points and five rebounds. ``Toward the end of the game, we didn’t execute at all.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Friday night’s ugly loss at Amway Center: