Denton: Magic-Blazers Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
March 7, 2011

ORLANDO – In a cruel, twisted sort of way for the short-handed Orlando Magic, Monday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers might have actually strengthened Dwight Howard’s bid to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.

A Magic team that has won this season with just eight healthy players and was victorious just last week when trailing by 24 points found out in Monday’s 89-85 defeat to the Blazers that the loss of their superstar center was simply too much to overcome.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has insisted all season that Howard deserves the MVP award because he affects more possessions on both ends of the floor than any other player. His loss Monday night because of a suspension was as apparent on both ends of the floor as the Magic sloppily turned the ball over 19 times and had no answer defensively for LaMarcus Aldridge (24 points).

``When Dwight rolls down the lane he takes so much attention from the defense and we certainly missed his presence in this game,’’ said Magic forward Ryan Anderson, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. ``We still had a great opportunity to win the game, we fought and that shows we’re a fighting team. We’re not going to let a game like this frustrate us and quit. We did a decent job and had a shot at the end.’’

Monday’s game was just the sixth game out of 556 that Howard, who was out because of a one-game NBA-mandated suspension for picking up 16 technical fouls, has missed in his dazzling seven-year NBA career. He’s played all 82 regular-season games in five of those seven years. He missed two games earlier this season because of a nasty stomach bug and he missed three games in 2008-09 because of mild tendinitis in his knees after playing in the Summer Olympics.

The Magic, losers of the last two after winning four in a row, got 22 points and four 3-pointers from shooting guard Jason Richardson. Hedo Turkoglu had his best game in weeks with 13 points, but he curiously passed up a wide-open 3-pointer in the final seconds down by four points.

Reserve point guard Gilbert Arenas scored nine points, but turned the ball over six times. And the struggles of point guard Jameer Nelson (1 of 7 shooting, two points and five turnovers) didn’t make matters any better for the Magic.

``We were a little bit better than them in every area, but we had 19 turnovers and they had nine. Ballgame,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy snapped. ``It’s been an ongoing problem. We’re one of the higher turnover teams in the league. We either take care of the ball or we’re going to continue to struggle. Our point guards have 11 turnovers between them and that’s not going to get it done.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Monday’s Howard-less loss at the Amway Center: