Denton: Magic-Knicks Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
March 23, 2011

Prior to Wednesday night’s game at Madison Square Garden, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy asked the New York media to hold their votes for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award and consider superstar center Dwight Howard.

Howard then went out and backed up his coach’s bold talk with a dominant, do-everything effort that proved worthy of the media not yet awarding the honor to heavy favorite, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.

Howard demolished New York inside to the tune of 33 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots to lift the Magic to an impressive 111-99 victory and possibly lift himself back into the race to win the league’s MVP honor.

Howard was unstoppable on the offensive end, making 11 of 15 shots and a jaw-dropping 11 of 13 attempts from the free throw line. And the two-time Defensive Player of the Year also did solid work on the defensive end, limiting Amare Stoudemire to a 2 of 16 shooting start and a pedestrian 13 points in the game.

``To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody that impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem at all if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East and he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. I have never been running down another guy. I think it’s a hard choice to make, but I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions as Dwight does.’’

The Magic (46-26) moved 20 games over .500 for the first time all season and improved to 3-0 on the season against the re-tooled Knicks (35-36). The Magic will be back in New York again on Monday for another game against the Knicks as part of the makeup game for the Nov. 2 date that was cancelled because of dangerous materials falling from the Madison Square Garden roof.

Howard was fabulous, but he also got plenty of help for one of Orlando’s best victories of the season. Jameer Nelson, the hero of Orlando’s defeat of New York three weeks ago, continued to play well against the Knicks with 19 points and four 3-pointers. Hedo Turkoglu had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, while Brandon Bass scored 15 points and the Magic were a plus-19 in his 30 minutes on the court.

The much-hyped Knicks seem to be in a freefall, losing four in a row and seven of the past eight games. They are now 7-10 since making the trade to bring in Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. Anthony actually played well Wednesday night with 24 points and nine assists, but he got little help from Billups (only two of his 17 points came after halftime) and Stoudemire (six of 20 shooting).

Here’s a look at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Wednesday’s well-played game from Madison Square Garden:


  • Howard made his case for being the best player in the game with an effort on national television that the basketball world likely won’t soon forget. He scored almost every time he touched the ball, missing only two shots and two free throws all night long.

    When the Magic started getting a little sloppy offensively in the fourth quarter, Howard looked at his teammates and mouthed a not-so-subtle plea: ``Get me the ball.’’

    And he routinely made the Knicks pay from that point, hitting nine free throws in 10 tries, scoring on Shawne Williams with ease and dishing to Turkoglu for a wide-open 3-pointer.

    ``I tried to block a few shots, stay in front of my man and dominate the paint,’’ Howard said. ``We started pounding the ball inside and made them play defense. I was able to kick it out for some 3-pointers and we made our free throws, too.’’

  • Nelson seemed to pick up where he left off on March 1 when he scored 23 of his 26 points in the second half of a Magic victory, scoring 12 first-half points. He had the Magic’s first points of the game on a 3-pointer and the last points of the first half on a 35-foot 3-pointer with a second left before the buzzer.

    And Howard had it rolling on the inside in the first half, scoring at will against Rony Turiaf. Howard made seven of his nine shots with four of those shots coming on left-handed hooks and finger rolls.

  • After a rough stretch a couple of weeks ago, Turkoglu and Bass have broken out of mini-slumps by playing much more aggressively.

    Turkoglu is no longer passing up open shots and is looking to attack when he comes off screen-and-roll plays. And the Magic have convinced Bass to use his quickness and explosiveness to get to the rim more. He did just that on Wednesday night, making all nine of his free throw attempts.

    ``Brandon worked really hard guarding Amare and I said something after the game in the locker room and he asked, `Was it my defense or did he just miss shots?’’’ Van Gundy recalled. ``I really like that Brandon is getting to the free throw line more now. That really helps us too because he’s one of our best free throw shooters.’’


  • When Van Gundy spoke to ESPN at the end of the first quarter, he could see that trouble lie ahead for the Magic considering how they were defending. ``I’m not really pleased with anybody right now,’’ Van Gundy said at the end of the first quarter.

    The Magic gave up 59 first-half points because they had a tough time running the Knicks off the 3-point line. New York gives teams problems with Anthony’s post-ups and Stoudemire’s rolls to the basket off picks, but the Magic gave too much space to Billups, Toney Douglas and Roger Mason at the 3-point line in the first half.

    Orlando led by as much as 10 points late in the first period when it went to its bench and got little production. The Knicks, meanwhile, got 10 points from Douglas and two 3-pointers from Mason to allow New York to take control in the second period.

    ``We came in at halftime and wrote the things on the board that we thought were important before the game and asked them how many of the things they thought we had done hard and well,’’ Van Gundy said. ``After that, we went out and just played harder. We made no X and O adjustments at all.’’


  • Much has been made of late of the Magic’s turnover issues – and rightly so considering that they have turned the ball over 72 times in the four games prior to Wednesday night. But not all of the turnover woes are ball-handling issues.

    Because the Magic base more of their offense around a center than any other team in the league, some of the turnover issues are with three-second violations, moving screens and battles in the post. For example, two of the Magic’s first turnovers Wednesday night came on three-second calls against Howard when teammates didn’t find him on post-ups.

    The Magic had 15 turnovers on Wednesday with just five of them coming in the first half.

  • Howard’s prowess with his left hand is surprising to some, but the Magic’s center says it’s because he ``grew up left-handed.’’ According to Howard, he did everything athletically as a child left-handed.

    But that changed in the eighth grade when Howard went up for a dunk and was undercut and fell on his left wrist and broke the joint. That time of not being able to use his left hand taught him to learn to shoot right-handed.