Denton: Magic-Lakers Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 13, 2011

ORLANDO -- Almost to a man, the Orlando Magic stressed that this showdown against the mighty Los Angeles Lakers was about proving something to themselves as much as it was proving something to the rest of the basketball world.

Winless over the last eight games against teams with winning records, the Magic played Sunday with an edge and a purpose of a team on a mission to prove a point. They needed a reminder once again that they are still members of the NBA’s upper crust, and they then went out on Sunday afternoon determined to display just that.

And when Orlando’s 89-75 destruction of the Lakers was complete, it had a definitive reminder of all that’s possible on a team powered by indestructible center Dwight Howard and plenty of firepower throughout.

``We hadn’t played well against some of the top teams like Boston, Miami and Chicago, and the way we played today, this is the way that we’re supposed to play every night,’’ said Magic guard Jason Richardson, who scored 12 points and kept Kobe Bryant off the free throw line for the first time in a year. ``This was just one of those nights when it seemed like guys said, `Enough is enough.’ We got it back on track and now we have to keep playing like this.’’

Howard did plenty of talking with his Most Valuable Player-caliber play on Sunday, smashing the Lakers’ big frontline to the tune of 31 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots. He made 13 of 16 shots, including a perfect nine of nine in the second half as the Magic (35-21) put L.A. (38-17) away in the fourth period.

Not long after getting a gash under his right eye taped up with butterfly bandages, Howard was already looking at Sunday’s result as something more than a singular event. This, Howard stressed, is what is possible from a Magic team that has wobbled at times this season against the NBA’s best teams.

``The way we played (Sunday) is the way we have to play every night if we want to be considered a great team. If we continue to do that there’s no doubt in my mind that we have what it takes to win a championship,’’ Howard said.

Howard and Richardson were the Magic’s only double-digit scorers, but they still got big contributions throughout the roster. All nine Magic players had at least two field goals. And the combination of Hedo Turkoglu and Richardson held Bryant to just 17 points on eight of 18 points. And in total, Orlando’s defense allowed L.A. to shoot just 39.3 percent and score a season-low 75 points.

``We put a lot into that game and I thought our individual defense was the best it’s been all year,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``There really was not a bad stretch for us today. And that’s what it’s going to take against quality teams. I think that game shows us at least who we can be. Now, you have to get a consistency with that type of effort and intensity.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from arguably the Magic’s best win of the season: