Denton: Magic-Rockets Postgame Analysis
By John Denton
January 7, 2011
WHAT WENT RIGHT
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.’’
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.’’
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 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.
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.
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.’’
``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.’’