Denton's Dish: Magic at Warriors (1/12/12)
By John Denton
January 12, 2012
OAKLAND – A night earlier in Portland, as many of the Orlando Magic players were celebrating what qualified as the team’s biggest victory of the season, Dwight Howard sighed and wondered when he’d finally have a breakout offensive performance much like his teammates.
Little did Howard ever guess that he was just a few hours shy of such a breakout offensive night. But Howard never could have possibly envisioned the manner with which his record-setting performance unfolded on Thursday at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.
Howard attempted a staggering 39 free throws, breaking an all-time NBA mark set by Wilt Chamberlain nearly 50 years ago as the Magic defeated Golden State 117-109 to complete a 3-0 West Coast roadtrip.
The Warriors employed the Hack-A-Howard strategy most of the game, intentionally fouling the Magic’s superstar center away from the ball eight times. The rest of the time, the undersized Warriors simply had to hack, grab and pull at Howard, who scored a season-best 45 points while also grabbing 23 rebounds.
``It’s a humbling experience (breaking the record), but most importantly we got the win,’’ Howard said of shattering Chamberlain’s previous mark of 34 attempts in Feb. of 1962. ``I had no idea (about the record) because I just wanted to win the game. I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn’t care if I missed 30, but I was going to shoot the next one with confidence. I’m just happy we stuck with the game plan and got a good win.’’
Howard made just 21 of the 39 free throws, but he got the last laugh as the Magic won their third straight game and improved to 8-3 on the season. Orlando defeated Sacramento, Portland and Golden State on the West Coast swing to pull into a tie with Miami (8-3) atop the Southeast Division.
Howard’s 40-point, 20-rebound effort was the first in the NBA since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2003 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the third 40/20 game in Magic history and the first since Shaq’s 46 points and 20 rebounds against Charlotte back in 1994.
Howard topped the 40/20 plateaus for the first time in his eight-year career and it was the fifth time he’s registered at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game.
But was the 39 free throws – that resulted in a choppy game that lasted 2 hours, 39 minutes – that everyone was talking about after the game.
``As the game wore on we were making comments to each other and when we heard that he shot close to 40 free throws, that was outstanding,’’ said Magic guard J.J. Redick, who had 13 points off the bench. ``It is amazing (the he broke Chamberlain’s record). But it’s also amazing that he made 21 of them.’’
Here is a closer look at some of the key moments of the game:
Howard said every night that he takes the court he tries to model himself after Chamberlain, who dominated games in a variety of ways.
``Nobody is going to catch Wilt’s 100-point record, but he’s my favorite player,’’ Howard said. ``Every night I picture myself playing against those guys. That’s where I want to be mentioned when I’m done playing.
``He was dominant and a guy who did everything on the court – passed the ball, ran the floor, blocked shots and was a great guy off the floor,’’ Howard continued. ``He dominated the game and I watched a lot of his games during the summer. It wasn’t about him just scoring. He was a great athlete who played volleyball in the summer and ran track. Those are some of the things that I’ve done in the past and that’s why I admire him so much.’’
The Warriors employed the Hack-A-Howard strategy throughout the first half, fouling the Magic center away from the ball five different times in the first two quarter.
Howard entered the game shooting just 42.6 percent from the free throw line – well below his career average of 59.5 percent. He made nine of 18 tries in the first half. Over the last 3 minutes of the second quarter, Howard attempted eight free throws, making five of them. A day after opining that his offensive game has lacked rhythm this season, Howard had 19 points and 13 rebounds by halftime.
The Magic’s defense was a mess in the opening two quarters, largely because of a lack of energy. Golden State routinely got into the lane (24 points in the paint in the first half) and shot 52 percent in the first two quarters.
``They started the game strong and we started slow,’’ Howard said. ``But when they started fouling me it slowed the game down and we were able to get back in it.’’
On Thursday, playing their second games in as many nights, the Magic were flat early on and sloppy on both ends of the floor. The Magic scored just 22 first-quarter points against the Warriors and were even worse defensively. It was 9-0 when Van Gundy had to call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding. And by the end of the first quarter, the Warriors were shooting 61.1 percent with 10 points in the paint on layups or dunks.
``They were running sets and we’d go three or four minutes without even running a play because they were fouling Dwight every time,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It was a hard game to ever get any rhythm in.’’
Richardson spent the first six years of his career playing for Golden State. He was cheered in pregame warm-ups and then scored seven points on three of seven shooting.
Richardson will have a MRI today.
``I thought I bumped knees, but I didn’t have that pain and soreness,’’ Richardson said. ``It was more that I couldn’t push off. I’ve never had this. It kind of does (worry him), but I’m a positive person, so hopefully I’ll just get some rest and it’s nothing serious.’’
Brown’s injury happened on the same day that Atlanta power forward Al Horford tore a pectoral muscle and is expected to miss at least three months. The injury is common in the NFL among offensive linemen, but rarely happens to NBA players.
Could the injuries be related to the condensed season created by the NBA lockout? Van Gundy said that’s certainly possible because training camp was shortened and games are coming at a fast and furious pace.
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