Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Bobcats (1/17/12)
By John Denton
January 17, 2012
ORLANDO – Two wins down in this stretch of three games in as many days and 10 victories in 13 tries this season and the Orlando Magic are already daring to dream big.
Big, as in this surging Magic team possibly having the potential to be one of the best squads in all of the NBA.
After Orlando outlasted Charlotte 96-89 Tuesday night at the Amway Center, Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick wondered aloud about just how good the Magic – winners of five games in a row now – can be this season.
``There are times when I’m on the court or on the bench and we’re playing and I say to myself, `This team has a chance to be the best we’ve been in my six years with the Magic,’’’ said Redick, who clearly hasn’t forgotten about the 2009 squad that won the East and reached the NBA Finals. ``I think we’ve got a lot of experience, we have the best big guy in the league (in Dwight Howard), the best and most dominant player (in Howard) and a lot of solid pieces around him. We have great coaching. We just have to keep buying in to what we do and we have a chance to be pretty darned good.’’
The Magic (10-3) were pretty darned good in the fourth quarter Tuesday night when they got big 3-point shots from Von Wafer (13 points), Hedo Turkoglu (15 points) and Ryan Anderson (13 points) to pull comfortably ahead.
Playing a night after winning in New York a day earlier, Orlando lacked for energy most of the game. But the combination of a lot of Howard (25 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks) and a late fourth-quarter spurt were enough to squeeze out another victory.
``We picked it up a little bit when we had to,’’ Howard said. ``We just have to be consistent and understand that this is going to be a tough season. It’s not like any other season where we’ll get chances to get breaks and rest here and there, so we have to count on our defense when offensively we’re not shooting the ball well.’’
Playing a third game in three nights for the first time since the lockout season of 1999, the Magic will go for the sweep Wednesday night at the Amway Center against the San Antonio Spurs. The aging Spurs led Miami 63-49 at the half on Tuesday, but were outscored 39-12 in the third period and lost 120-98.
Here is a closer look at some of the key moments in Tuesday’s game:
- Wafer is becoming somewhat of a sparkplug off the bench for the Magic, providing energy and explosiveness with his ultra-quick first step.
Wafer, who was acquired from Boston along with Glen Davis in the trade for Brandon Bass, twice blew past Charlotte’s Matt Carroll in the second quarter to score five points. And his off-balanced lob pass to Howard for a dunk had Magic coach Stan Van Gundy off the bench and applauding his vision and willingness to share the ball.
Wafer ignited the Magic again in the fourth quarter, hitting two mid-range jump shots and a 3-pointer, while blocking a shot on defense. He finished with 13 points by making five of eight shots.
``I just try to bring energy and aggression, that’s all I want to do,’’ Wafer said. ``I am very comfortable with those guys. Playing with Dwight is a lot like playing with Yao (Ming). He gets a lot of double-team situations. Those are easy situations to play off of. It’s easy playing off someone coming at me because I can attack them or get the jump shot.’’
- The Bobcats chose not to double-team Howard – as the Knicks did repeatedly a day earlier – and the Magic center made them pay for it. He made 11 of 18 shots, grabbed four offensive boards and had four more assists. His final assist of the night went to Anderson, who buried a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:33 to play to put the Magic ahead 86-81.
- The Magic yielded 50 points in the first half, but played much better defensively in the second half. Charlotte managed just 39 points after the break and managed to shoot just 44 percent and one of nine from 3-point range.
``In the first half we didn’t put much effort into it, particularly on the defensive end of the floor,’’ Van Gundy said. ``In the second half, I thought we played a lot harder defensively. What I said to them at halftime was that if we want to be good we’re going to have to become a defensive team. So far we really haven’t really made that commitment as a team that we want to be great.’’
- Foul trouble is increasingly becoming a problem for the Magic, and that was no different Tuesday night. The Magic rank fourth in the NBA in most fouls committed a game.
Early foul trouble to Hedo Turkoglu and Howard sapped any momentum the Magic had at the start of the game. After Turkoglu and Howard picked up their second fouls of the first quarter and headed to the bench, Charlotte closed the period on a 16-8 run to take the lead.
Turkoglu’s third foul came with 5:39 left in the first half, and a technical foul ensued when he challenged referee Tre Maddox on the call. It was his second technical foul of the season.
Van Gundy thought the fouling was a result of the Magic lacking some mental focus Tuesday night. ``(The Bobcats) were playing their fifth game in six nights and they looked like they had more energy than we did,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s all mental. It’s what you think you can get.’’
- Howard and ``Big Baby’’ Davis shared some laughs on two different occasions near the end of the third quarter. Howard made a spinning post move despite being tripped by Charlotte’s Bismack Biyombo and uncharacteristically hit the floor. Davis acted as if he was restarting a prone Howard’s heart, placing both hands on the center’s chest as his body gyrated.
Seconds later, Davis raised a few eyebrows when he snatched a rebound off the glass, dribble the ball all the way up the court and heaved a 26-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds that hit nothing but the floor under the rim. Howard playfully mocked the 290-pound Davis lumbering up the floor as he drove, drawing snickers from Wafer.
Said Van Gundy of Davis’ overall play: ``Glen didn’t have a good offensive game, but I thought he raised our energy level. He had some hustle plays that got us going.’’
- Howard had done a much better job of not arguing with the officials so far this season, but he’s clearly regressed the past couple of days.
Howard picked up his third technical foul of the season in the fourth quarter for showing his displeasure after a defensive foul. It was Howard’s second technical foul in the past two days as he was whistled in the first half of the game in New York on Monday.
Howard led the NBA in technical fouls last season with 18, resulting in two one-game suspensions and more than $1 million in lost salary because of fines.
- Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson, who missed his second consecutive game Tuesday night, went through a 30-minute shooting routine before the game.
Richardson sprained his knee last Thursday against Golden State. He wanted to try and play against the Bobcats, but trainers advised him against it. He likely will rest again Wednesday against San Antonio and then test the knee in a Friday morning shootaround prior to the home game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
- Referring to the daily rumor mill surrounding his future with the Magic, Howard playfully joked with the media after the game. ``Breaking news,’’ Howard bellowed, ``I’m going to play with the Globetrotters next season.’’
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