Denton: Magic-Rockets Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 7, 2011


WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • When the Rockets chose to collapse down on Howard on the low block and stayed with Nelson on the pick-and-roll it left Bass open at the free throw line several times. And he repeatedly burned Houston’s defense, making eight of 12 shots.

    Bass, dubbed ``Charles Darkley’’ by Howard because his resemblance to Charles Barkley and Charles Oakley, is clearly gaining more confidence with his mid-range shot when teams leave him open.

    ``Those (free throw line) shots are ones that I know that I can make and the goal is to keep knocking them down consistently when teams leave me open,’’ Bass said. ``I know that I probably wouldn’t be so open if it wasn’t for Dwight down there posting up down low. So I’ll taking them and hopefully get him open.’’

  • The Eastern Conference is loaded with elite talent at the point guard position, but Nelson is making a strong push to make the all-star team with the way that he is running the point for the Magic.

    Because he is a threat to score off layups and open jump shots off pick-and-roll plays, defenses are having to commit to staying on Nelson and that is leaving shooters open. And Nelson is finding them at a record rate.

    Nelson has had at least six assists in five of his past six games. And in the three games this week so far, Nelson has handed out 21 assists.

    ``We have a lot of guys on this team making shots and that makes my job easier,’’ Nelson said. ``I’m just trying to attack off the pick-and-rolls and make the right play when I get in the lane.’’

  • With Howard and Bass in foul trouble early in the game, the Magic got a nice lift from reserve power forward Earl Clark. Clark, a second-year pro, was the fourth member of the two trades with Phoenix and Washington and has rarely played since arriving in Orlando.

    But Clark has kept himself sharp by showing up early and staying late at practice, working by himself on off days and even getting in postgame workouts on nights when he doesn’t play. All of that hard work paid off Friday when Clark had eight points and four rebounds in almost 18 minutes of playing time.

    ``I think that Earl is going to be a really good player,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``Offensively, he is very talented, he is quick and he can put the ball on the floor. He is a very hard-working guy. … He just needs to learn what we’re doing, and he’s working hard at that. He’s got to get better on his defensive principles. I think when he understands what we’re doing defensively, he can be an outstanding defender because he moves his feet and he works hard.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Howard’s first half was a dismal one because of foul trouble. He was on the floor just 10 minutes, forcing the Magic to use Anderson and Bass at center and Clark at power forward.

    Howard had two quick fouls in the first period – one on a moving screen and another while trying to defend Houston guard Kevin Martin on a pick-and-roll play.

    Howard sat out the final 4:25 of the first period, but Van Gundy put him back in the game to start the second quarter. But Howard’s third foul came with 9:33 left in the first half when he collided with former teammate and close friend Courtney Lee on a rebound, knocking the Houston guard to the floor.

    The short stint on the court in Friday’s nationally televised game was reminiscent of the Christmas Day game against the Boston Celtics when Howard was in foul trouble most of the game while battling against Shaquille O’Neal.

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Don’t ever believe NBA players when they say that personal statistics don’t matter to them. Witness the scene from Friday’s second quarter for proof that the numbers matter plenty to them.

    Hedo Turkoglu threw a beauty of a no-look pass to Bass for a thunderous left-handed dunk, but point guard Jameer Nelson was mistakenly credited with the assist. When timeout was called, Turkoglu playfully glared at public address announcer Paul Porter. When the mistake was corrected minutes later, Turkoglu smiled and Nelson mocked disappointment. Earlier in the week, Turkoglu notched the third triple-double of his career – the most ever by a Magic player – but made a furious push near the end of the game to reach double figures in points and assists.

  • The Magic likely won’t get to Dallas until 3 a.m. local time Saturday morning, but they caught a big break when Mavericks superstar forward Dirk Nowitzki was ruled out of the Magic-Mavs game because of lingering pain in his sprained knee.

    Nowitzki suffered the injury on Dec. 27 when he landed on a player’s foot and his knee buckled. He is still limited to riding a stationary bike and said clearly the injury is more serious than he ever would have imagined.

    ``It’s frustrating. When it first happened, I never thought I was going to miss two weeks,’’ Nowitzki told ESPNDallas.com. ``I guess I took the whole situation a little too lightly, but I don’t have a lot of experience with knee injuries – that’s a good thing. Hopefully, these next couple of days it will respond good and I’ll be ready to go.’’

  • Both Bass and Anderson know that many of their open shots are a result of Howard rolling down the lane and teams sucking in defensively to prevent dunks. Anderson, who made all five of his shots and scored 13 points in a third quarter where the Magic outscored the Rockets 39-21, said it’s his job to knock down open tries.

    ``Brandon’s done a great job of hitting that (mid-range) shot and he can do that consistently. But it’s a good thing too that we have guys who can stretch the floor and demand a lot of attention,’’ Anderson said. ``Dwight doesn’t have to score 30 points a night to be felt in a game. He opens the court for everybody. I’m just glad that I’m playing on the same team as him.’’

  • READ ENTIRE ANALYSIS

    John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.