Denton: Magic-Kings Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 23, 2011

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard trudged through an almost empty Orlando Magic locker room late Wednesday night looking solemn and seeking something to fill a silence in the air that was downright deafening.

After flipping through a computer keypad, Howard cranked up a song – ``Hustle Hard’’ by Ace Hood, Lil’ Wayne and Rick Ross – that was very telling on arguably the Magic’s most frustrating night of the regular season.

``That’s not even the part that guys need to hear,’’ Howard said, referring to another blaring lyric in the rap song about the same old things happening on a different day.

Howard had reason to fume Wednesday night after his Magic returned from the break following the NBA All-Star Game and failed in their attempt to accomplish much that it spent the past three days talking about. Facing a 13-win Sacramento Kings team that had been blown out a night earlier in Miami and was without standout point guard Tyreke Evans, the Magic got very few of the defensive stops they were seeking, crumbled offensively and ultimately suffered one of their worst losses of the season in a 111-105 defeat.

Afterward, Howard – who had 31 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots – took his Magic (36-22) to task for its effort and willingness to fight defensively.

``We’ve been talking for a long time. That’s all we seem to do is talk,’’ Howard said. ``It’s very frustrating and if guys don’t want to play then they need to sit down. We just can’t have guys or anybody out there and not playing hard. We’re professional athletes and this is what we do for a living. If we can’t get out there and go hard for two hours, then you shouldn’t be playing.’’

Orlando allowed the Kings (14-41) to shoot 52.5 percent from the field, win the rebounding battle 42-36 and close the game like they were the ones in the middle of a playoff chase. In the fourth quarter alone – one in which Sacramento outscored Orlando 32-21 – the Kings shot 64 percent, while the Magic made only 26.3 percent and turned the ball over four times. In all, Orlando had 17 turnovers.

``We didn’t defend, we didn’t play well offensively, we didn’t rebound and we didn’t take care of the ball,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy muttered. ``I don’t know how much more complete you can be in playing poorly.’’

The Magic came into the game seeking marked defensive improvement and an increased sense of urgency down the stretch of the regular season, but this was a nightmarish game nearly from start to finish. The Kings, who entered 27th in the league in field goal percentage, scored at will throughout, especially down the stretch.

``We didn’t play hard and it’s as simple as that,’’ Howard said. ``Even if you mess up and miss a million shots, if you are playing hard all of that stuff will equal out. But if you are out there (coasting) around, then you’re not going to get anything done. We can’t play like that if we want to be a championship team.’’

Here is a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Wednesday night’s frustrating loss: