Denton's Dish: Magic at Blazers (1/11/12)
By John Denton
January 11, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. – In recent years, Portland’s Rose Garden has been a house of horrors for the Orlando Magic with them losing by a combined 29 points the last two years in addition to having some explosive postgame fireworks.
But on Wednesday night, the Magic looked right at home in a city where they have been staying since Sunday night due to a quirk in the NBA’s condensed schedule.
Some of the Magic’s players grumbled in recent days about having two days off in cold and sleepy Portland. But the time off clearly refreshed and readied a Magic team that delivered their finest performance of the season in a shocking 107-104 defeat of the Trail Blazers Wednesday night.
``I think it’s all of the clean air out here in Portland with all of the trees,’’ joked guard J.J. Redick, who had four clutch free throws late in the game and led the Magic with 17 points. ``There was an abundance of oxygen in the air here in Portland and maybe that’s why we had so much energy.’’
Portland (7-3) came into the game as one of only two teams 6-0 at home, but it was no match for a Magic team that made 14 of its first 22 3-pointers and shot better than 60 percent from beyond the arc most of the night. For the game, the Magic made 16 3-pointers and had 25 assists on their 41 baskets.
Orlando (7-3) came into Wednesday having beaten six teams with losing records that all failed to make the playoffs last season. Several Magic players, especially Redick, called the game against Portland a statement game for the Magic, and they certainly made a bold proclamation with their play Wednesday night.
``This was a great win for us,’’ said Ryan Anderson, who had 16 points and four more 3-pointers. ``We’ve been wanting to start games better and get out to a nice run and we did. Until that stretch in the fourth quarter we had a nice lead. It’s just a huge win because they are a great team and a great home team. We needed a big win like this on the road.’’
But the victory didn’t come without a little drama in the fourth period. Up as much as 23 points at one time, the Magic came unglued late in the game and gave the Blazers life during one stretch with three consecutive turnovers. Portland got within 96-93 with 2:38 to play, but small forward Hedo Turkoglu quieted a rocking Rose Garden with two huge offensive plays. The Magic’s go-to player in the fourth quarter had a driving layup and a step-back 3-pointer to steady the Magic and secured the victory.
``Those were huge. We were dying and we went to (Turkoglu) twice and ended up with five points,’’ Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``To me those were the game-winners right there.’’
Portland did make another push, slicing a nine-point deficit to three again with 32 seconds to play with six straight points. Two turnovers by Magic point guard Jameer Nelson added Portland’s push. But a Jason Richardson free throw and four more by J.J. Redick saved the Magic after Portland got within two points of the lead.
Nelson otherwise played his finest game of the season by making his first seven shots and scoring 16 points. Turkoglu also scored 16 points with four 3-pointers and Jason Richardson added 15 and two 3s. Superstar center Dwight Howard had 13 points and 13 rebounds and many of his four assists ended up being Magic 3-pointers.
The Magic conclude the three-game roadtrip Thursday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors. Golden State has already beaten Miami and New York at home and should be rested for the Magic after playing last on Tuesday. The Magic have their sights set on a 3-0 roadtrip.
``That would be great,’’ Howard said. ``(Thursday) will be a tough game. Golden State has been playing great at home and their guards can really play the game. Last year up there we were up big and they came all the way back to win. It’ll be a fun game and I’m looking forward to it.’’
Here is a closer look at the key moments in the game:
- Nelson outplayed Portland point guard Raymond Felton most of the night. He shot open looks with confidence, got in the lane for baskets and aided the ball movement with some pinpoint passes.
Portland gave Nelson fits late in the game by putting the taller Nicolas Batum on him, but he was otherwise brilliant throughout in his best game of the season. Nelson made seven of nine shots, drilled both of his 3-pointers and added five assists.
``I shot the ball well, I shot it on balance and I got into the paint when I needed to,’’ Nelson said. ``I’m a good shooter and that’s the way I should shoot the ball.’’
- The Magic led 62-50 at the break, but the Blazers managed to steal away the momentum in the final seconds of the first half when Raymond Felton hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Jameer Nelson.
The Magic otherwise owned the first half by making 24 of 38 shots (63.2 percent). The Magic had great ball movement, registering 18 assists on their first 24 baskets.
The ball rotation also resulted in several wide-open looks from the perimeter. Orlando hit 11 of 18 3-pointers, getting three from Anderson and two each from Richardson, Turkoglu and Redick.
Anderson had 11 points in the first half, while Richardson scored 10 early on. The Magic’s bench made eight of 11 shots in the first half, led by Glen Davis making all four of his attempts on the inside when Portland tried guarding him with small forward Gerald Wallace.
``I thought our ball movement was the best that it’s been early in the year,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Our energy and ball movement were outstanding. I was really happy with what we did in the first half. Our problem at the end of the first half and at the end of the game was not being able to take care of the ball. That’s been an ongoing thing and we have to be better with it.’’
- Fresh from two days off, the Magic raced out of the gates at the start of the game and actually led 13-2 at one point. The Magic scored the game’s first eight points on three layups and a dunk to force the Blazers into an early timeout.
The first quarter was arguably Orlando’s best 12-minute stretch of the season considering the quality of the opponent. Orlando made 14 of 20 shots and six of eight 3-pointers in the first quarter to bolt to a 36-22 lead.
Seven players scored in the first period, led by Redick’s eight quick points off the bench. And four different players made 3-pointers to keep the Blazers guessing defensively and at the Magic’s mercy.
And by the middle of the second period the Magic were shockingly ahead 44-24 thanks to some great ball movement and dead-eye shooting. Orlando hit 17 of its first 23 shots, including seven of nine from beyond the 3-point stripe. To illustrate how good the Magic’s ball movement is, they had 12 assists on their first 17 baskets.
- The near collapse came about because of six turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. Up 90-75 midway through the fourth quarter, Orlando kicked the ball away on three straight possessions to give the Blazers life.
The hectic finish might have taken some of the luster off the performance, but it didn’t overshadow how good of a victory this was for the Magic, Nelson said.
``Every team is going to make a run, especially one as good as Portland is at home, but at the end of the day we won the game and that’s all that matters,’’ Nelson said. ``All games are tough, but we kept fighting versus a good team.’’
- Howard and Van Gundy put in strong words for Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday, touting his skills as one of the game’s best power forwards. Howard said he’s like to see Aldridge make the All-Star Game in Orlando after he was snubbed each of the past two seasons because of the depth of forwards in the Western Conference. Van Gundy called Aldridge, ``the most underrated player in the NBA.’’
- Nelson also made light of Orlando’s extended stay in Portland, saying: ``It feels like we’ve been on vacation here in Portland. But we were fresh and ready to play.’’
- Redick said on Tuesday that if the Magic could beat Portland – arguably the NBA’s toughest home team in the league – that it would be a signature victory. After hanging on to do just that on Wednesday, Redick took pride in the victory.
``We can hang our hat on this win in the sense that we played really well for 42 or 44 minutes against a really good team in their building,’’ Redick said.
Added Howard: ``It’s just a great win for us considering it’s been a while since we’ve won a game here in Portland. And it’s a good one with the way they have been playing. It was great for our team to come out from the beginning of the game and take their crowd of out of the game.’’
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 email@example.com
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