Denton: Magic-Wizards Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 4, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This Gilbert Arenas, one who was gritty and engaged defensively and attacking from his opening ovation until the final horn, was one the Orlando Magic hadn’t necessarily seen over the past six weeks.

But Arenas being sparked by his return to Washington, the city where he played for seven-plus seasons before being traded to Orlando in December, was a welcomed sight for a Magic team searching for energy and playmaking a night after losing a home heartbreaker against Miami.

Arenas was surprisingly cheered by the same fans who once jeered him and he responded with 10 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and a blocked shot as the Magic pulled away late in a 110-92 defeat of the Wizards at Washington’s Verizon Center.

``It was great. They recognized that one bad year can’t cover seven good years that I was here for,’’ Arenas said of the ovation that he received. ``I was playing defense against somebody (Washington’s Nick Young) that I taught every move in the book to, so that made it pretty easy. I just wanted to come out and help us get a win after we had a rough one last night. We’re trying to position ourselves before the all-star break.’’

Despite not getting to Washington until almost 4 a.m. Friday morning following Thursday’s 104-100 loss to Miami, the Magic (32-19) had enough energy left to outscore Washington (13-36) 59-43 in the second half to breeze to the victory. The Magic made seven of nine 3-point shots in the fourth quarter and got big performances from Dwight Howard and Arenas throughout to gut out a victory.

``To come back on a quick turnaround and play the way that we did in the second half really says a lot about our team,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``I didn’t look out there and ever think we had great energy during the game. But what we did have was great resolve and commitment to get the job done.’’

A night after playing all 48 minutes against Miami, Howard made his first 10 shots and had 22 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes. But all eyes were on Arenas, who was traded to Orlando six weeks ago following a tumultuous ending to what had been a dazzling career in Washington. Arenas once again didn’t shoot the ball well, but it was his willingness to battle defensively against Young impressed the Magic. Young, who came into the game averaging 17.3 points per game, made just seven of 20 shots and was whistled for a frustration technical foul in the fourth quarter.

``I got in Nick’s head all the way back to last week,’’ Arenas said of his well-in-advance trash talk. ``He never scores on me. He already knew what was going to happen. I didn’t really do anything different than what I always did in practice against him. He never scored in practice, so I knew he wasn’t going to score in the game. They were trying to get him involved to break that spell that I have over him, but not this time.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Friday night’s bounce-back win in Washington:


  • Van Gundy said he was worried before the game because Howard looked especially drained a night after scrapping for 48 minutes against the Heat. But Howard showed no ill effects of the extra work that he put in on Thursday, making his first 10 shots.

    He had four lob dunks and two more spin moves in the lane that resulted in thunderous stuffs. And he capped his dazzling shooting night with a 21-foot fade-away jumper. His only miss was a heat check of sorts – a 17-foot bank shot attempt.

    ``This was important and we came out with a lot of energy even though some of us played the whole game the night before,’’ Howard said. ``It was kind of tough, but we got a good win. I was thinking coach was going to play me all 48 again. But I’m glad we got the lead and I didn’t have to play the whole game again.’’

  • A night after struggling to find their range from the perimeter, the Magic got hot at the right time from the 3-point line against the Wizards.

    Orlando made just two of its first 14 tries from beyond the arc Friday night, but came back after halftime to make 10 of 17. And they could hardly miss in the fourth period, when they got threes from five players and made seven of nine tries.

    Ryan Anderson, who missed his first six tries and eventually the game-tying shot on Thursday, came back on Friday with 19 points, eight rebounds and three 3-pointers. Jameer Nelson’s only three field goals were 3-pointers and added 11 assists to go with his nine points. And J.J. Redick finished strong by making his final five shots and finishing with 15 points.

    ``This was almost a must-win for us with Boston coming up (on Sunday) and we know that will be a tough game,’’ Anderson said. ``(The game-tying shot from Thursday) was in the back of my mind a little bit, but the good thing was that we had another game (Friday) to help me forget about it.’’


  • Rashard Lewis, the player who spent four-plus highly productive seasons in Orlando before he was traded for Arenas in December, had a solid game with 14 points, eight rebounds and three steals. But the Magic took away his 3-point shot, giving him just two attempts in the game and not allowing him to hit one.

    Lewis was greeted by several Magic players before the game and he was in the Orlando locker room after the game, chatting with Nelson and Howard. He said before the game that it was still hard that he is playing for a team other than the Magic.

    ``It feels a little weird,’’ Lewis said of facing his close friends and former teammates. ``If I was traded in the summer and had time to re-think and re-focus it would be OK, but I was just playing with Jameer and Dwight back in December and now I’m with a different team. It’s weird knowing you were on that team earlier this season.’’

  • As usual, Redick was booed every time he touched the ball Friday night by Maryland fans who still despise him because of his ties to Duke University. Redick, who missed seven of his eight tries and all four 3-point shots in Thursday’s loss to Miami, missed his first three shots on Friday.

    But he rebounded by making his final five shots, three of them back-breaking 3-pointers in the second half. Redick finished with 15 points and had some fun with the University of Maryland fans who were razzing him all game long.

    ``Maryland fans just aren’t very intelligent,’’ Redick said. ``If I had just got my (butt) kicked by Duke on Wednesday (final score: 80-62), I wouldn’t be up in the stands, yelling: `Go Terps.’’’


  • Second-year pro Earl Clark seems intent on taking advantage of this opportunity for playing time created by the ankle injury to Brandon Bass. Clark, acquired back in December from Phoenix, didn’t hesitate to hoist shots Friday night in his time off the Magic’s bench.

    Clark was especially active in the first half, getting up nine shots and scoring six points to go with seven rebounds. Clark finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, hitting five of his 12 shots, but missing all three of his free throws.

  • Lewis admitted that it’s difficult watching his former team from afar. When he’s off, he said he always watches Magic games on television. And if he happens to miss a game, he’s often eager to see how his former Magic mates fared.

    ``I watched them (Thursday) night against Miami. Even when I don’t watch them, I look at the box scores to see who won. For some reason I always look at Orlando first to see how everybody is doing,’’ Lewis said. ``I have a lot of good friends on that team.’’

    Lewis said his only regret leaving Orlando was that he couldn’t help the Magic win a championship. Orlando reached the NBA Finals in 2009 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring.

    ``We didn’t win it all and that was my No. 1 goal for the city and (Magic owner) Mr. (Rich) DeVos,’’ Lewis said. ``We got close two years in a row, but didn’t win it. I wanted to win a ring, but I guess they wanted to go another direction.’’

  • Arenas admitted after Friday’s game that off-court family issues have been distracting of late and hindering his performance. Arenas was served with child support and custody papers as he was leaving the court during halftime of Thursday’s game in Orlando. A process server stopped Arenas as he walked off the court Thursday against the Heat.

    Laura Mendoza Govan, Arenas’ long-time girlfriend, is seeking custody and child support for three children that Govan says Arenas fathered and has since ``financially cut off.’’ She is also seeking support for another unborn child.

    ``That’s who she is as a person, and it’s just bad that it has to be played out in the public eye,’’ Arenas said. ``When a girl asks for $100,000 (a month) and you say, `No,’ that doesn’t mean she’s being cut off. She’s still getting the $20,000 she’s always gotten.’’

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