Denton: Magic-Knicks Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
March 28, 2011


NEW YORK – Two Orlando Magic point guards were out of the game injured, one was in another prolonged shooting funk most of the night and the converted, makeshift fourth-string point guard was saddled with foul trouble.

But as it turns out, that wasn’t even the Magic’s biggest problem Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

Orlando’s troubles at point guard became almost comical after it opened without Jameer Nelson (sprained knee), lost Chris Duhon to a thumb injury and saw Gilbert Arenas miss his first eight shots. But the biggest issues on this night for the Magic were seeing Dwight Howard pick up his 17th technical foul and having no one to slow down Carmelo Anthony, who poured in 39 points and helped New York beat the Magic 113-106 in overtime.

``It was a wild, wild game, but we still had a chance to win it if a few things had gone the other way,’’ Howard said. ``It’s an intense game out there and I’m emotional sometimes. My teammates know what is going on, but we’ll just move on.’’

The loss ended the Magic’s winning streak at five games and prevented Orlando (47-27) from sweeping New York (36-38) in all four games this season. Anthony called the game ``a must-win’’ earlier Monday for the skidding Knicks – losers of six in a row and nine of 10 before Monday – and then went out and did something about it with 19 third-quarter points and 33 in the second half and overtime.

Faced with odds that kept mounting all night, the Magic were remarkably able to get the game to overtime by rallying from a 98-92 deficit in the final 1:20 of regulation. Jason Richardson (24 points) tied the game with a clutch 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds to play.

And one of the weirdest plays of the night came with 51 seconds to play in overtime. A potential game-tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu was wiped off the board when Richardson was whistled for a tripping foul 30 feet from the play. Just seconds earlier, Anthony had pulled Richardson down following a scrum for a loose ball. But veteran referee Dick Bavetta called only Richardson’s retaliation, depriving the Magic of a tying score.

An avalanche of errors and injuries finally caught up to Orlando in OT. Howard, who had 29 points and 18 rebounds, was whistled for a highly questionable sixth foul with 1:17 left in overtime while fighting for a rebound. He objected to referee Leon Wood’s call and flung the ball the length of the court to draw his 17th technical of the season. Already suspended one game earlier this season, an 18th technical foul over the final eight games of the regular season would result in another one-game suspension.

``Foul? What foul?’’ Arenas said, referring to Howard’s sixth personal. ``When you throw the ball to the other end of the floor, 99.9 percent of the time it’s a delay of game. But I guess against Dwight it’s always a technical foul.’’

Turkoglu, the fourth-string point guard, had 18 points in 40 minutes before fouling out in overtime. Arenas missed nine of 11 shots and finished with nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 43 minutes. Brandon Bass scored 14, while Ryan Anderson added 10 points and two 3-pointers off the bench.

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from the fourth and final game this season against the Knicks:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Despite everything that was going against the Magic on this night with the injuries, bizarre foul calls and the offensive explosion from Anthony, the Magic hung tough all night and got big contributions from several players.

    Howard, the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for a NBA-best sixth time this season, had 15 points and eight rebounds in the third quarter alone following a sluggish first half. Richardson hit four 3-pointers and never hesitated on the tying shot at the end of regulation even though he assumed that the Knicks would foul him to prevent the shot.

    Turkoglu also made four 3-pointers, ran the point at times and had to chase around Anthony defensively. And even Arenas had a jump shot and a 3-pointer in the final two minutes of regulation to help the Magic rally to force overtime.

    ``It’s not easy when four of your five starters are having to play 41-plus minutes, we have injuries and we’re having to move guys in and out just to try and stay fresh,’’ Anderson said. ``But regardless of everything that’s happened this season we’ve been relentless. Even in close games like this we’ve found ways to play through adversity.’’

  • WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Already without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and down to just nine players because of other injuries to J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson, the Magic suffered another blow when reserve point guard Chris Duhon had to leave the game in the first quarter with a badly sprained right thumb.

    With Duhon unable to play much of the first half, the Magic had to turn back to Arenas even though he had two fouls and was suffering though a miserable shooting slump. Duhon had his thumb packed in ice much of the first half, but gingerly returned for the final 80 seconds of the first half after Arenas picked up his third foul.

    Duhon had an inconclusive X-ray on his thumb at halftime, and did not return to the game in the second half. He had the thumb taped for a brief time before the decision was made that he couldn’t play.

    ``I was closing out and had a chance to get a deflection and I just bent my thumb all the way back,’’ said Duhon, who was unable to squeeze a towel at halftime and left the arena with a brace on his thumb. ``I couldn’t grip the ball or really catch a pass. My competitive spirit wanted to be out there, but I would have been playing with one hand and possibly hurting my team.’’

  • Arenas had to think that things couldn’t possibly get any worse than his 1 of 12 shooting night on Friday against the New Jersey Nets. But Monday night’s first half had to test his will.

    Arenas missed all seven of his shots in the first half and turned the ball over four times. After he botched a three-on-one fastbreak, Arenas dropped his head, slumped his shoulders and seemed to openly doubt himself.

    ``I’ve figured out that I have to shoot off balance for them to go in,’’ Arenas said referring to his jumpers near the end of regulation. ``I’ve got free throws rimming out and I’m missing easy shots right now. It’ll drop for me at some point, I hope.’’

  • FINAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Anthony backed up his must-win proclamations by playing relentlessly and attacking the paint throughout. And several times – even when Turkoglu, Richardson and Earl Clark were pressed up into him – Anthony still buried jumpers.

    After scoring just six points in the first half, Anthony got himself going in a 19-point third quarter by repeatedly getting to the free throw line. He made 13 of 17 free throws in the game – many of them coming off fouls by Turkoglu and Howard.

    ``It was definitely a must-win for us and we showed that from the first play of the game,’’ Anthony said. ``The intensity we had, it was everybody. You have to start somewhere and tonight was a starting point for us. It was a big win for us. We got out of the hole and got that monkey off our backs so now we can focus on Wednesday’s game and bringing that same intensity.’’

  • Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing got one of the loudest ovations of the night from the Knicks fans who still love him dearly for his accomplishments in New York.

    Much has been made of late about the job security of Mike D’Antoni should the Knicks continue to slide down the stretch and falter in the playoffs. If D’Antoni does take the fall (and still gets a guaranteed $6 million), it will be interesting to see if Ewing gets some consideration for the New York coaching job. Van Gundy has repeatedly made a case for Ewing as a future head coach, saying that he’s put in the work as an assistant coach and he works with the entire team and not just Orlando’s big men.

  • 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.