Denton: Magic-Wizards Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
February 16, 2011


ORLANDO – At the conclusion of Tuesday’s Orlando Magic practice, head coach Stan Van Gundy gathered his team around him and issued a cryptic question that also doubled as a stern challenge.

``Are we a team that can do it night after night or was that just a one-night thing?’’ Van Gundy asked his squad, referring to the Magic’s thrilling throttling of the Los Angeles Lakers last Sunday.

The Magic, led of course by the continued excellence of superstar center Dwight Howard, answered that question in resounding fashion on Wednesday night, thumping the hapless Washington Wizards 101-76 at Amway Center.

Howard, the Eastern Conference’s reigning Player of the Week, gashed the Wizards inside with 32 points and 10 rebounds in just three quarters of work. He made 12 of 15 shots – most of them with ease – meaning he made 25 of 31 shots in the Magic’s last two victories against the Lakers and Wizards.

``Our effort and intensity has to be the same way from game to game and it has to be consistent because that’s the only we can win a championship,’’ Howard said. ``The last two games have been OK as far as the effort, but we have to continue it.’’

Jason Richardson scored 16 points and hit three 3-pointers, while Brandon Bass had 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in his first start since injuring his ankle almost three weeks ago. Ryan Anderson chipped in 14 points and eight rebounds off the bench for the Magic (36-21), who woke up after a slow start in the first quarter to throttle Washington (15-39). The Wizards were without starters Rashard Lewis, who was cheered in his return to Orlando, and Nick Young, but got 27 points from rookie point guard John Wall.

``When you’re supposed to be a dominant team like we are, you are supposed to go out and dominate teams. And that’s what we did,’’ said Gilbert Arenas, who had six assists against his former team. ``Good or bad teams, have to play like that the rest of the way.’’

The Magic will take the next four days off for the NBA All-Star break and will return to practice on Monday. Howard, the Magic’s lone participant in the all-star festivities, likely won’t practice that day after getting back into Central Florida from Los Angeles near sunrise. Orlando doesn’t play again until Wednesday when it hosts the Sacramento Kings. Orlando then hosts Oklahoma City (Friday) and Charlotte (Sunday).

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Wednesday’s finale before the NBA All-Star break:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Howard made sure there was no letdown or look-ahead to the All-Star break, battering the Wizards all night with one low-post move after another. He registered the 10th 30-point game of the season and notched his 15th straight double-double.

    He scored 17 points by halftime, making six of his eight shots early in the game. It looked like a continuation from Sunday’s defeat of the Lakers when Howard made all nine of his shot attempts after halftime and 13 of 16 for the game.

    The two-time Defensive Player of the Year also blocked at least three shots for a third consecutive game. It’s the third time this season he’s had a three-game stretch with at least three blocks. He’s swatted three or more shots 16 times this season.

    ``He’s been solid the last week. He’s been a monster around the glass,’’ Washington coach Flip Saunders said. ``He only missed three shots in the paint. He just dominated the game.’’

  • In his first start since Jan. 31 when he severely sprained his ankle, Bass got off to a slow start, but managed to put up tremendous numbers.

    Bass missed his first six shots, but made his six of his final seven attempts and scored all of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. The 11 rebounds gave him his third double-double of the season.

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The Magic fell behind 5-0, resulting in Van Gundy calling timeout 1:17 into the game. The Magic looked like they had already checked out on all-star break in the first quarter, shooting a dismal 31.8 percent and turning the ball over four times.

    ``Early in the game it was all fastbreak layups (for Washington). Everything was going at the paint and I didn’t think we were doing a very good job defensively,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I just wanted us to get into the game correctly defensively.’’

  • Several members of the Magic got a chuckle when guard J.J. Redick got his feet tangled up on a Kirk Hinrich drive and he fell to the floor. Redick did break his fall by reaching up and grabbing Hinrich for a foul.

    Said Jameer Nelson: ``I think he tripped over the free throw line. I think the line rose up and tripped him.’’

    Said Howard: ``J.J. doesn’t have a lot of rhythm. He sort of has two left feet and you can mess with him. Sometimes one-on-one defense isn’t his strong point.

    Everybody had a pretty laugh with it. I guess mentally you have to be pretty strong to get back up and play defense after falling down.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • During a break in the action, a montage of some of Rashard Lewis’ biggest shots for the Magic was shown on the JumboTron. The highlight was followed by a shot of Lewis sitting on the Wizards’ bench and the forward was given a nice ovation from the fans inside the Amway Center.

    Lewis spent the previous 3 ½ seasons in Orlando before being traded to Washington in December. Lewis missed his third straight game Wednesday night because of lingering pain in his left knee and is reportedly contemplating surgery. Lewis has played well in Washington, averaging 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds a game in 25 games with the Wizards. He’s posted six double-doubles for Washington.

    ``I want to thank (Magic fans) for all of the support. Orlando fans are great fans,’’ Lewis said. ``It’s a basketball town. Everywhere I went for the three years I was here they really showed us a lot of support. It’s almost like they were our backbone. I wish we would have won a championship for the city of Orlando because we feel like the fans really deserve it. I’m sure that is their No. 1 goal and hopefully they’ll get it one day.’’

  • Van Gundy’s plans for the all-star break are to attend a few workouts for the Atlanta Braves so that he can see his close friend, Braves manager Freddi Gonzalez. The two were friends during their time in Miami when Gonzalez worked for the Marlins and Van Gundy worked for the Heat.

    Van Gundy and assistant coach Brendan Malone are also planning to attend a Temptations and Four Tops concert in Melbourne on Saturday night.

  • Just wondering: Were the two fans sitting courtside at Wednesday’s game dressed in Steve Nash jerseys with their faces painted orange and purple in the wrong arena? Granted the Magic have three former Suns on their current roster – Hedo Turkloglu, Earl Clark and Richardson – but certainly not Nash, the two-time MVP point guard.

    For the record, the Suns play the final game before the all-star break Thursday night against the Mavericks.


  • 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.