Denton: Magic-Raptors Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 21, 2011

ORLANDO – At times in Friday’s one-sided, almost unfair third quarter, Orlando Magic star center Dwight Howard looked like the playground bully holding a little kid away by the head as he flailed away and hit absolutely nothing.

Time and time again, the bigger, stronger Howard would go up into the air and do as he pleased against the smaller, weaker Toronto Raptors. Anytime the Orlando Magic needed to pull away from Toronto, their big man would simply flex his considerable muscles and dominate the basketball game.

Howard finished with 31 points and 19 rebounds – of which 17 points and seven rebounds came in the third quarter – as the Magic rode the massive shoulders of their big man and breezed to a 112-72 rout of the Raptors.

``Coach (Stan Van Gundy) told us to go out and follow the word that I always say, which is `Dominate,’’’ said Howard, who made 12 of 21 shots, hit seven free throws and grabbed nine offensive boards.

How utterly dominant was Howard? Howard had as many points (31) and rebounds (19) as Toronto’s starting five had points (31) or rebounds (17). And that was without even playing in the fourth quarter as the Magic romped.

``Some of the young fellas over there for Toronto looked like they were scared of him,’’ Magic point guard Gilbert Arenas said with a chuckle.

``Some of the time – well, pretty much all of the time – it looks like he’s out there playing against high school kids,’’ Magic forward Ryan Anderson remarked. ``He’s just so much bigger, so much more athletic and so much more talented than a lot of the guys in this league. That was impressive, very impressive.’’

Anderson tied a career-high with 21 points, but 17 of those came in the fourth period after Howard had already broken the will of the Raptors (13-30). J.J. Redick chipped in 12 points, while power forward Brandon Bass scored 10 points and frustrated Toronto star center Andrea Bargnani, who missed 11 of his 14 shots and scored only 11 points.

The Magic won at home for the eighth straight time. The Magic are 17-5 at the new Amway Center this season. The Magic are winning by an average of 16.5 points a game at home. And the 40-point win wasn’t even the biggest home victory of the season. They beat Minnesota by 42 points at Amway Center back in November. The largest home win ever was by 46 points in 1995 against Philadelphia.

``It feels good to have one like this after having a lot of close games in a row,’’ said Van Gundy, whose Magic needed a last-minute four-point play and overtime to beat Philadelphia on Wednesday. ``Now, we have to go back on the road and do better than we did the last couple of games on the road.’’

The Magic headed deep into the heart of Texas after the game for a Saturday night showdown against the Houston Rockets. The Magic beat the Rockets 110-95 back on Jan. 7 in Orlando.

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from the Magic’s eighth straight home victory at Amway Center:


  • Despite having no one with the size inside to guard Howard, the Raptors made the decision to single-cover the Magic’s big man. And did he ever make them pay for that very questionable decision.

    Orlando’s superstar center had a double-double by halftime with 14 points and 12 rebounds. And he was even more dominant in the third quarter, making six of his seven field goal for 17 more points.

    It was Howard’s sixth game this season with at least 30 points and the fourth time this season with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Since 2007-08, he has 24 games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds, far and away the most in the NBA.

    ``The (Toronto) coach said at halftime that if I score a lot of points that my other teammates don’t get involved, so I guess that was their plan,’’ Howard said. ``I just tried to be dominant on both ends. … Stan has done a lot of stats and when I score over 30 points we tend to lose games. But I’m trying to get my teammates involved. When I have it going they continue to pound the ball inside and I just try to do my best.’’

  • Some might have wondered if Jameer Nelson’s starting job was in jeopardy when Orlando traded for Gilbert Arenas in mid-December, but the Magic co-captain has stepped up his game and is passing the ball better than he has at any point in his career.

    He had another eight assists on Friday night, boosting his season total to 6.7 a game. That would represent his career best in that category by more than a full assist a game.

    Nelson said that he is an ideal position coming off pick and rolls. Because he has Howard rolling down the lane and he’s surrounded by 3-point shooters, Nelson is able to attack the defense at will and make them make a decision.

    ``We’ve seen all kinds of defensive schemes, but they have to give up something to take something else away,’’ said Nelson, who had nine points and eight assists. ``I knew that Toronto wanted to try to get back to Dwight’s body on the pick-and-roll and it opened up all kinds of driving lanes for me.’’

  • Bass is in a prominent role this season because of his commitment to rebounding the ball better and becoming much more serious about his defense. That approach has led to him becoming an avid studier of game film, often done at the side of Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing.

    Bass said he likes to study film on his opposition the night before a game so that he’s totally prepared for what he will see in the game. That was just what he did with Bargnani, leaning that the Toronto center doesn’t like physical play and tries to use his shot fake to draw fouls. Nothing worked against Bass’ gritty defense Friday night.

    ``A lot of the best players in the NBA are power forwards, so I’m trying to really study up on what they like to do and make it tough on them,’’ Bass said. ``Stan put together a great scouting report to let me know the plays that they were going to run for him when they were in certain sets. I just tried to stay down, move my feet and make him shoot over me. I really wanted to get into him and take away his space. I’m starting at power forward and I’m facing a lot of all-stars, so I need to try and be a step ahead when I can.’’


  • Magic power forward Ryan Anderson, who had been on a shooting tear of late, had his first poor shooting night in weeks Friday night.

    Anderson missed seven of his first nine shots and his first four 3-point attempts, before finally connecting on four triples in mop-up time in the fourth quarter. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four 3-pointers with a red-hot fourth quarter to hide his early struggles. He made six of seven shots and four of five 3-pointers for 17 points in the fourth quarter alone.

    Said Anderson: ``The first half I struggled. But I was able to build confidence up after I made that first one. I was on a roll in the fourth quarter, but it’s not like I was creating it myself. A lot of guys were finding me.’’

    Over the previous 14 games, Anderson had been averaging 12.7 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from 3-point range. He had scored in double figures in 12 of the past 14 games and made at least three 3-pointers in each of the past five games. And he scored 20 points – one off his career high – in the Magic’s overtime defeat of Philadelphia on Wednesday night.


  • Howard, a veteran of several all-star games and NBA dunk contests, made a strong case for Redick to be included in the 3-point Shootout at All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

    Redick made two of four 3-pointers in Friday’s game, giving him 60 made 3-pointers for the season. Redick is now 45th in the NBA in made 3-pointers and he entered Friday 29th in the league in 3-point percentage (41.1 percent).

    Howard, whose dressing stall is next to Redick’s in the Magic locker room, made a strong pitch for Redick to be invited to the 3-point Shootout for the first time in his career. Redick has said that he’s never lost an organized 3-point shootout at any level in his life.

    ``He’s the best 3-point shooter that there is. Matter of fact, I think he should be in the 3-point Shootout, so (the fans) should push for J.J. to get into the 3-point Shootout,’’ Howard said. ``Remember, J.J. Redick for the Shootout. He really needs this.’’

  • Van Gundy said that Bargnani, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, has the quickest first step of any 7-footer that he’s ever scouted. A big part of what helps Bargnani is that his shooting range extends well beyond the 3-point line and when defenders overcommit trying to contest shots, he goes past them off the dribble.

  • Stuff, the Magic’s mascot, suffered a rib injury during a skit with actors Alfonso Ribeiro, Terry Crews and Anthony Anderson. Ribeiro shot to fame in the 1990s was Carlton on ``The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.’’

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