Denton: Magic-Suns Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
March 13, 2011


PHOENIX – As family reunions go, this was the equivalent of the Orlando Magic storming in and eating all of the potato salad, flipping over the picnic table and talking trash throughout the kickball game.

In what seemed at times like `old home week’ with the court filled with former Orlando Magic and Phoenix Suns players on both sides, the Magic eventually put aside all of the sentiment and mushy feelings and smacked around the Suns with a wire-to-wire beatdown.

Orlando got 26 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks from superstar center Dwight Howard and placed seven players in double figures to whip Phoenix 111-88 and get the better of former teammates Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus.

The Magic (42-25) never trailed, led by as much as 28 points in the second half and basically made life miserable for Carter (3 of 9 shooting), Pietrus (4 of 12 shooting) and Gortat (12 points and four rebounds).

A Dec. 18 trade between the Magic and Suns shuffled Hedo Turkoglu (13 points), Jason Richardson (10 points) and Earl Clark (two points) to the Magic and Carter, Pietrus and Gortat to the Suns and set the stage for Sunday’s touchy-feely, nationally televised reunion.

``It was funny to me that I looked around out there at one point in the game and in a matter of six months I had played with everybody out there except for (Vince) Carter and (Aaron) Brooks,’’ Turkolgu joked. ``It was good to see all of those guys again and there was all of the kissing and hugging before the game. But once the game started, we went out there and took care of our business like we were supposed to.’’

Did they ever? The Magic scored at will for much of the game, putting up 32 points in the first quarter, 61 in the first half and doubling up the Suns (26-13) in the third quarter. And with Howard anchoring the inside, Orlando was able to keep former Magic players Carter (11 points) and Grant Hill (four points) away from the rim.

``It was fun to see Vince, Marsh and MP, but we’re more happy about getting the win,’’ Howard said. ``We hadn’t won here since I’ve been in the NBA, so that was my focus and it was a good win. My job is to dominate on both ends of the floor. If I get some blocks early they know they can’t come down the lane and that sets the tone. That’s how we have to play the whole game.’’

The Suns (33-31) were without star point guard Steve Nash, who missed both games against the Magic this season. Orlando won in the Valley of the Sun for the first time since Nov. 14, 2001, a span of eight games.

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from a game where the Magic led wire-to-wire and was never really threatened:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Facing Gortat, who predicted before the game that he would be able to ``limit’’ Howard in the post, the Magic’s superstar center dominated on both ends of the floor. Gortat actually played well and forced Howard into some tough looks, but the Magic’s big man destroyed Robin Lopez.

    Howard made nine of 17 shots, hit eight of 13 free throws and five of his 15 boards came on the offensive end. He converted five dunks and seemed to attack especially hard after Lopez took what appeared to be a flagrant whack across Howard’s arms and wrists.

    Howard took particular delight in going against Gortat, who had to face the Magic big man in practice for the better part of the past four seasons. And Gortat’s pregame comments were brought to Howard’s attention by his teammates. Gortat did do well offensively against Howard, hitting six of nine shots.

    ``They showed that to me before the game, so I was pretty amped up,’’ Howard said. ``We didn’t talk a lot because he had his game face on. I knew he was going to shoot all jump shots. Every day in practice when he gets the ball it’s the first thing he does. So I figured he was going to come out and do that. His (picture) was on a building and he looked good, so I’m happy for him.’’

  • Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted after the game that he’s gone back to running more pick-and-roll plays for Jameer Nelson and Heod Turkoglu. The two have responded to the increased opportunities, playing especially well of late.

    Nelson had 14 points and three 3-pointers before banging knees with Aaron Brooks and resting most of the second half. Turkoglu scored 13 points, grabbed seven boards and hit a deep 3-pointer when the defense went under a screen on a designed play.

    ``As long as I’m coming off screens aggressive and looking for my shots I can keep playing like this,’’ Turkoglu said. ``My shots are up and my scoring is up lately because I’m back in a position to do the things that I’m good at.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • There are rumblings already that Carter isn’t happy in Phoenix even though he’s played pretty well in a Suns uniform. And he didn’t look engaged in Sunday’s game while missing six of his nine shots and three of four 3-pointers.

    Even with Nash out of the game, Carter didn’t have an assist in 23 minutes. And at one point his Suns missed 12 straight shots at the end of the third period and the start of the fourth. During that stretch, Phoenix went 8 minutes, 44 seconds without a field goal.

    It had to sting Carter, a Daytona Beach native, that the Magic dealt him away early this season and he’ll likely be home for the playoffs this spring unless the Suns can get Nash (pelvic instability) healthy and make a run at the eighth spot.

    Carter chose not to talk to the media before the game about his rematch against his former team and he didn’t stick around long afterwards to analyze the postmortem.

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Howard said he had no idea that he was close to a major milestone coming into Sunday, but he topped 10,000 points for his career in the third quarter with a nifty hook shot over Lopez. He came in needing 23 points to hit the 10,000-point mark and finished with 26 points before resting most of the fourth period because of the lopsided score.

    ``I didn’t even know about that because I never look at points,’’ Howard said half-jokingly. ``Rebounds and blocked shots, that’s what I look at. Points don’t win championships; defending and rebounding wins championships.’’

  • Reserve point guard Gilbert Arenas and starting power forward Brandon Bass, two players who have been slumping of late, shot the ball with confidence against Phoenix’s tissue-soft defense.

    Arenas made hit two 3-pointers and got to the free throw line five times (with four makes). He finished the game with 16 points, five rebounds and three steals.

    Bass took advantage of the Suns lack of a true power forward by scoring 17 points. He repeatedly got to the rim for powerful finishes. He made seven of 10 shots and finished with 17 points and six rebounds. The Magic would certainly take the same kind of performance from Bass Monday night against Pau Gasol.

  • Bizarre stat: Pietrus, as happy-go-lucky player as there is in the NBA, now has six technical fouls in 32 games with the Suns. He was whistled for a T in the second quarter when Howard blocked one of his shots and no goaltending call was made.

  • Dead ahead for the Magic is the showdown against the Lakers at the Staples Center. L.A. has been arguably the NBA’s best team since the all-star break and the Magic know they will be in for a battle after embarrassing the Lakers a month ago in Orlando.

    ``It’s going to be a real challenge facing one of the best teams in the league on their home floor,’’ Nelson said. ``We know going in that they aren’t the same team that we beat a month ago and we’ll have to be ready to play against those guys.’’

  • 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.