Denton: Magic-Lakers Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
March 14, 2011


LOS ANGELES – When discussing the legitimacy of his team as a true championship contender prior to Monday night’s nationally televised showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers, Orlando Magic offered up several reasons why the Magic are a powerful and dangerous team … with one caveat.

``We’re pretty good,’’ Van Gundy said, ``when we’re not throwing the ball to the other team.’’

Van Gundy was talking, of course, about the Magic’s problems with turnovers. That area of concern reared its ugly head again Monday night when the Lakers picked up the defensive pressure and the Magic collapsed under an avalanche errors and botched possessions.

The Magic shot well enough (47.1 percent) and held Kobe Bryant and Company in check for a half, but ultimately the errors piled up and the Lakers poured it on in the second half of an unsightly 97-84 Orlando loss at Staples Center.

Orlando (42-26) lost because it turned the ball over 18 times compared to L.A. (48-20) kicking it away just five times all night. Magic superstar center Dwight Howard hit the Lakers for 22 points and 15 rebounds, but he turned the ball over nine times because of harassing double teams.

The turnovers resulted in the Lakers getting 21 extra shot attempts and the Lakers holding a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers. The Lakers also had more second-chance points (24-10), points in the paint (44-34) and fastbreak points (20-5).

The Lakers’ length – namely power forward Pau Gasol (23 points), center Andrew Bynum (10 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks) and reserve forward Lamar Odom (16 points and six rebounds) – bothered the Magic all night.

``It’s pretty easy; all you have to do is look at the stat sheet,’’ Van Gundy fumed afterward. ``They had eight more offensive rebounds than we did and they had 13 fewer turnovers. That’s 21 more shots and that’s the ball game. The game was on the boards and taking care of the ball. Other than that, we played a fairly even basketball game.’’

Many of the turnovers were of a wacky variety. Point guard Jameer Nelson, who had 13 points and eight assists, committed four turnovers, but three were for offensive fouls. He was twice called for pushing Derek Fisher off him and another time for running over Bryant. Howard had nine turnovers, but two came on questionable offensive foul calls and two on three-seconds violations.

``The turnovers were a problem, and most of my turnovers came because of three seconds and offensive fouls,’’ Howard said. ``I don’t know what to do about it other than just play through it.’’

Bryant, who was questionable to play because of a sprained ankle, scored 12 of his 16 points in the third quarter. Bryant, who rehabilitated his ankle most of Sunday and stayed in the Magic’s downtown L.A. hotel for more work on the ankle on Monday, made a quick return likely because the Magic routed the Lakers 89-75 at Amway Center back on Feb. 13.

``It was more mental. I was still kind of being unsure because I hadn’t really tested it out,’’ Bryant said. ``It throws my balance off. I was kind of leaning to the right a little more. But by the second half, you just have to shoot the shot.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Monday night’s nationally televised rematch against the Lakers:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Howard continued to show off his offensive improvement early in the game with 13 first-half points. What was most impressive was that four of Howard’s five field goals in the first half were mid-range jump shots. He routinely burned Andrew Bynum when he backed off and played Howard for the drive, softly kissing the ball off the glass. Howard’s jumpers were measured at 19, 13, 12 and 12 feet.

    Joked Howard: ``Who do they look for now when the shot clock is running down? Me!’’

    Bymnum had good reason to back up after Howard torched the Lakers for 31 points, 13 rebounds and five rebounds. Howard made 13 of 16 shots that night and before Monday’s game Van Gundy called it ``easily Dwight’s best game of the year.’’

    Howard finished eight of 14 from the floor and six of 11 from the free throw line, but he was unhappy at how the Magic stopped going inside in the third quarter.

    ``In the first half, we were running, swinging the ball around, playing inside-out and getting good shots,’’ Howard said. But in the third quarter we started taking a lot of quick shots and got away from what we do. We have to be more consistent.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The third quarter was a disastrous one for the Magic as the Lakers held a 30-20 advantage in the period. That meant the Lakers went from up five points to down five points by the start of the fourth quarter.

    The Magic turned the ball over six times in the third quarter, four of them coming from Howard. That ignited the Lakers offense and Bryant made the Magic pay for the miscues with 12 third-quarter points.

    ``Everything we did in the first half we just let it go in the third quarter,’’ said Ryan Anderson, who started at power forward, scored 13 points, made four 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds. ``They had a huge run in the third quarter and it was a really quick turnaround. We weren’t taking care of the ball and we were taking tough shots.’’

  • The Magic led 46-41 at the half Monday night, but the problem was that the lead should have been much bigger considering the Lakers’ struggles early in the game.

    Bryant made just two of 10 shots in the first half, while Gasol made only five of 11. Andrew Bynum had 11 rebounds in the first quarter and 12 in the first half, but he struggled to convert those chances by missing five of seven shots early.

    The Lakers shot just 35.4 percent in the first half and missed six of their seven 3-point attempts.

    ``Andrew is doing a great job of protecting our basket and playing defense, giving us a force inside that’s hard to come by,’’ Odom said of Bynum. ``He’s doing it without even scoring sometimes, which not many players in this league can do.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Howard got to truly know Bryant during the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the two have since become close friends with the Lakers’ star doling out advice to help the Magic center improve his mental game. Of course, that has fueled speculation that Bryant may try to recruit Howard to the Lakers when he becomes an unrestricted free agent following the 2011-12 season.

    Howard said Bryant’s encouragement has helped him improve his intensity and killer instinct when on the court.

    ``I always take up for Kobe when people say Kobe’s a certain way,’’ Howard said. ``But he can be the nicest guy in the world and then when he gets on the court he just wants to win and nothing else. It’s like he has that switch. He’s so focused.’’

  • The celebrities were out in full force for the high profile Magic-Lakers game. Here are just a few seen Monday night: Jack Nicholson, Andy Garcia, Robert Downey Jr., Vanessa Hudgens and Maria Shriver.


  • 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.