Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Raptors (1/1/12)



By John Denton
January 1, 2012


ORLANDO – As New Year’s Day hangovers go, this one was a doozy for most of Sunday for the Orlando Magic. Then, just in the nick of time the Magic found the perfect elixir to cure all their ills.

Down as much as 16 points early in the game and trailing by 11 heading into the final period, the Magic awoke from their slumber by hitting five fourth-quarter 3-pointers for a thrilling 102-96 come-from-behind defeat of the Toronto Raptors.

In a span of 4 minutes, 40 seconds in the third period, the Magic went from trailing 89-78 to leading 94-89 with a 16-0 run that included two 3-pointers from NBA-leader Ryan Anderson, another from J.J. Redick – that was drawn up in essence by star center Dwight Howard – and a deep, double-clutch buzzer-beater from Hedo Turkoglu that looked circa 2009.

``It’s huge because this is the first time we’ve had to fight our way through when we could have given up,’’ said Anderson, who made five more 3-pointers and scored a team-high 24 points. ``We found a way to fight through in that fourth quarter and get a win.’’

Did they ever? A Magic team shooting just 43 percent through the first three quarters made 70 percent of their shots in the final period for a 32-15 edge over the final 12 minutes. Hedo Turkoglu had 10 points of his 15 points and two of his seven assists in the fourth quarter. His dagger 3 over a flailing DeMar DeRozan gave Orlando a 91-89 edge – its first lead since the second quarter.

``It feels great being in that situation again with the ball in my hands in the fourth quarter,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I’m feeling more and more comfortable and I’ll either take the shot or make the extra pass.’’

The victory was the fourth in a row for Orlando (4-1) and third in a row at the Amway Center this season. The Magic play again Monday night in Detroit for their sixth game in nine nights. But whatever fatigue the Magic are feeling was washed away Sunday night by the thrilling fourth quarter comeback.

``We never panicked and we started making shots,’’ said Howard, who had 19 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots. ``This team is starting to remind me of the team that went to the Finals (in 2009). Instead of pointing fingers, we stick together and just get the job done.’’

Redick, who continues to play some of the best basketball of his NBA career, scored 21 points off the bench and made three of five 3-pointers. It’s his fourth consecutive game of scoring in double figures.

Andrea Bargnani had 28 points, while Jose Calderon added 18 points and 13 assists for Toronto (1-3). The Raptors made just 5 of 15 shots in the fourth period and went more than 5 minutes without a point during the magic’s game-turning run.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key moments from Sunday’s game:

    MAGIC MOMENTS

  • Much has been made already of Howard’s improved passing early on this season, but he got an assist of another kind late in the game that proved highly beneficial for the Magic.

    Howard has asked for more input into personnel decisions and Xs-and-Os moves on the floor, and he got the say that he wanted in a fourth quarter timeout. After head coach Stan Van Gundy drew up a pick-and-roll play for Turkoglu and Howard, he directed Anderson to rub off Howard’s hip for a shot.

    Howard told the coach that the defender checking Redick, DeRozan, would have a much harder time getting around the 275-pound center than Anderson’s man, Bargnani. Van Gundy changed the alignment and the result was a 3-pointer from Redick that drew the Magic to within in 89-86.

    After the play, Redick pointed to Van Gundy to acknowledge the adjustment. Van Gundy just threw his palms in the air and chuckled at the dead-on suggestion that Howard made.

    Said Howard: ``I told J.J. to get ready because the ball was coming to him and he made the shot. I guess Coach (Van Gundy) put trust in my coaching skills.’’

  • Anderson had a huge icepack on his right shoulder after the game, resembling a starting pitcher who had just thrown 100 pitches. Teammates joked that he needed the ice because he’s been heaving so many 3-pointers this season.

    Anderson came into the game leading the NBA in both 3-pointers made (16) and 3-pointers attempted (37) and he built on his lead in both categories against the Raptors. His five of eight shooting from beyond the arc means he’s made 21 of 45 (46.7 percent) on 3-pointers this season.

    The fourth-year pro also leads the team in scoring, averaging 20.4 points per game. He came into the season averaging 8.6 points per game, but is shooting the ball with confidence.

    ``I’m just shooting the ball when I’m open. That’s where a lot of my attempts are coming from,’’ Anderson said. ``If I don’t shoot it when I’m out there wide open then I’m not helping the team. But I’m not think about (leading the NBA in 3-pointers).’’

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • The Magic were lethargic defensively early in the game, allowing Toronto one uncontested drive after another to the rim. Of the Raptors 52 points at halftime, 28 came in the paint on layups, dunks and drives.

    Bargnani, who has played some of the best games in his career in Orlando, had his way in the first half with 19 points. He made eight of 12 shots early on by offering up a head fake and driving hard to the rim. Van Gundy tried Anderson, Davis and even Earl Clark on Bargnani with little success.

    Toronto shot 51 percent in the first half and eight different Raptors had field goals in the first 24 minutes.

    ``When you play great the great players, and Bargnani is a great offensive player, you’re not going to shut them down,’’ Van Gundy said. ``But we made far too many mistakes where we weren’t disciplined and we gave them easy baskets. We need to be better than that.’’

  • Any thought that a sluggish first half would jar the Magic into focus in the third quarter proved to be wrong as the Raptors pushed their five-point halftime lead to 11 by the start of the fourth quarter.

    Bargnani and Calderon continued to bedevil the Magic with their pick-and-roll play in the third quarter, combining for 13 points in the period.

    MAGIC MOMENTS

  • Because of the five-month lockout between the players and owners, the NBA schedule has been condensed to 66 games in a shorter period of time. That is going to make for some challenging stretches for teams, and the Magic are getting a taste of what’s ahead in the coming months right off the bat.

    Sunday’s game was the Magic’s fifth in eight days. And when Orlando plays in Detroit on Monday night it will conclude a stretch of six games in the first nine nights of the season.

    By comparison, Toronto was playing just its fourth game Sunday night. The game against the Magic was the start of the Raptors’ first back-to-back of the season.

    Van Gundy said the Magic’s energetic rally in the fourth quarter proved that the grind of the schedule is as much mental as it is physical.

    ``If it were fatigue wouldn’t you be more tired going into the fourth quarter (than the first three quarters)?’’ Van Gundy asked. ``You can summon it. You have to believe a lot of it had to be more mental than physical. Your mind engages and your energy comes from your sense of urgency, wanting to get the job done and wanting to win.’’

  • Turkoglu said he feels reborn again getting the ball in the fourth quarter, much the same way he used to in 2008 and ’09 when he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and led the Magic to the NBA Finals. He has said repeatedly through the years that the trust that Van Gundy has shown him gives him the confidence needed to make clutch plays at the end of games.

    ``Until the fourth quarter I had foul problems,’’ Turkoglu said. ``But then Stan gave me the ball and I was able to go to work in the fourth quarter.’’


John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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