Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Celtics (1/26/12)

By John Denton
January 26, 2012

ORLANDO – Just when they thought they couldn’t feel any worse about a massacre of a loss to the rival Boston Celtics on Monday, the Orlando Magic experienced something possibly even worse on Thursday: A meltdown of epic proportions.

Just four days after experiencing the worst scoring night in franchise history in Boston, the Magic once again went cold in the second half and barely avoided setting more team records for all-time lows.

Once up 27 points in the first half, the Magic scored just 17 points in the third quarter and then missed 15 of their 17 shots in the fourth quarter in a crushing 91-83 loss to the Celtics at a stunned Amway Center.

According to STATS LLC, it was the Magic’s biggest blown halftime lead (21 points) ever in a loss. And it was the biggest blown lead in the past 11 years dating back to a 2001 loss to Dallas when up by 22 points.

``We’re embarrassed as much as we were the other night, but again that’s not productive,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``We got frustrated with the physical play. We got frustrated with the officials and just got totally out of our game. It was tough to watch. … There were just a lot of things that were a little deflating and we just didn’t handle those things well. Obviously we had a lack of composure and it’s a very, very difficult loss to take.’’

An embarrassed Dwight Howard said after the game that the Magic (12-6) must make some changes to their style of play if they are going to be an elite team in the Eastern Conference. Howard had 16 points and 16 rebounds, but he had just one field goal in the fourth quarter. His hook shot ended a start to the fourth quarter in which the Magic missed their first seven shots, misfired on five of six free throws and turned the ball over three times.

Howard, a team captain along with Jameer Nelson, didn’t name names or point fingers, but he said Thursday’s collapse was a result of too many players trying to play outside of their normal games.

``We didn’t play the right way. We’ve got to change. Everybody can’t come down and feel like they have to take the game over,’’ Howard said. ``We just have to play team ball and play the way we know how to play and we didn’t do that. We have to play the right way.’’

Just four nights after scoring just 56 points and only 20 in the second half – both franchise records – the Magic nearly eclipsed another record in the fourth quarter. The Magic had just five points heading into final minute the fourth quarter and avoided the franchise low of seven when Hedo Turkoglu hit a 3-pointer with 40 seconds to play.

Shockingly, the Magic went 18 minutes, 10 seconds between made jump shots. Turkoglu’s 3-pointer with 6:50 left in the third quarter put the Magic up 64-45 and they didn’t make another jumper until Turk’s 3 in garbage time with 40 seconds to play.

``The guys know that we didn’t come out in the second half like we’re supposed to. To go and give up a lead like that … we have to find a way to maintain (leads) like that when teams pressure us,’’ said Magic guard Jason Richardson, who had 13 points, but made just five of 12 shots. ``It’s folding (when that happens). We don’t want to get that reputation, that we’re soft.’’

As they were on Monday, the Celtics were without Ray Allen (sprained ankle) and Rajon Rondo (sprained wrist). They also didn’t have starting center Jermaine O’Neal (swollen knee) after he battled with Orlando’s Howard and baited him into a technical foul on Monday.

On Thursday, Orlando was three technical fouls – two coming late in the fourth quarter as the Celtics (8-9) were surging into the lead. Paul Pierce scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half, while rookie E’Twaun Moore hit all four of his 3-pointers and scored 13 of his 16 points after halftime.

``We lost composure. The Celtics showed perseverance and we didn’t,’’ said Orlando forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who made just three of 11 shots. ``You could see things unravel with the turnovers. Boston smelled blood, they smelled pressure. We didn’t do a good job countering.’’

Here is a closer look at some of the key moments from Thursday’s nationally televised game:


  • A 32-point first quarter and a 21-point lead at halftime certainly looked promising, but nothing could save the Magic from another second-half collapse on Thursday night.

  • Things looked somewhat disastrous early in the night when Howard picked up his second foul less than 3 minutes into the game. But incredibly the Magic seemed to thrive without their franchise center, putting up a 30-11 run to take a commanding 32-16 lead at the end of the first quarter.

    Anderson, who did not make a shot and did not have a rebound in 23 minutes on Monday, was particularly aggressive early in the game. He had 12 points, a 3-pointer and two offensive boards in the first quarter alone. And he made the Celtics pay for trying to guard him with small forward Pierce, twice scoring on the low block.

    However, Anderson failed to score after the first quarter. In eight quarters this season against the Celtics, Anderson has failed to score in seven of them. Anderson was whistled for a technical foul with 3:47 when he argued after not getting a call on a hard drive to the hoop.

    ``I think we’ll overcome (composure issues),’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s not just the composure issue, it’s not that simple. From a basketball standpoint, the real issue is we’ve got to be able to face real physical play. We had four or five times where guys just decided they were going to bull their way to the basket and draw a foul. All with the intention of making a good, solid play, but not playing our game and moving the ball.’’

    By halftime, the Magic had 58 points – two more than they had in 48 minutes of Monday’s massacre in Boston. The Magic moved the ball much better on Thursday and led 58-37 at intermission. A Magic team that shot just 24.6 percent four days earlier hit 50 percent in the first half, while holding the undermanned Celtics to just 38.2 percent.


  • Limited to a franchise-worst 20 points in Monday’s second half, the Magic once again had major difficulties scoring after halftime on Thursday.

    Orlando scored just 17 points in the third quarter after making only six of 18 shots with five turnovers.

    And then things proceeded to get worse at the start of the fourth quarter, allowing Boston to come all the way back from a 27-point deficit and take the lead. The Magic missed their first seven shots of the fourth quarter, missed five of six free throws and turned the ball over three times. Meanwhile, Boston used a 15-1 spurt to vault into a 79-76 lead with 7:43 to play.

    Davis, who left the Celtics in the offseason to sign a four-year, $26 million contract with the Magic, took some of the blame upon himself for the second-half collapse.

    ``I had a lot of opportunities to make open shots and I didn’t,’’ Davis said. ``I put it upon myself as far as losing this game. I lost the game for this team. I’m supposed to be the energy guy and come to play night in and night out, and I didn’t do that. I didn’t come to play in the second half and we lost.’’

  • For a second consecutive game, Howard was hardly on the floor in the first half because of troubling foul problems.

    At Indiana, Howard played just seven minutes of the first half after picking up two fouls in the first period and a quick third one in the second quarter.

    Thursday night was shockingly similar as Howard headed to the bench for the final 9:05 of the first quarter after picking up two fouls. He stayed on the floor for 3 minutes in the second quarter, but a third foul came in the second quarter when he contested a Paul Pierce drive to the rim.

    Howard played just 6 minutes of the first half. He had two put-back baskets and four rebounds in the early going.

    Howard, the NBA’s leader in technical fouls last season with 18, was whistled for his fifth technical foul of the year with 3:26 to go in the game. Because the schedule is reduced to 66 games this season because of the lockout, players will be suspended a game after picking up their 13 technical foul.

    Howard was more concerned on this night about how the Magic can get their players to stay within their roles. Beating the best teams in the East is also a concern to Howard, who seems to be on a championship-or-bust mission this season.

    ``We thought it was going to be easy after the first two quarters. We have to change what we do and guys have to know their roles and do it. That’s just the bottom line,’’ Howard said.

    ``We got caught up with the refs. It wasn’t just their physical style; we got caught up with the refs and we can’t do that,’’ Howard continued. ``We have to understand that we can beat a lot of teams in this league, but for us to be that championship team we’ve got to go through teams like Boston and Miami and the good teams in the East. That’s the only way we can get to where we want to.’’


  • Prior to the game, the Magic honored Howard for becoming the franchise’s all-time leading scorer on Tuesday in Indiana. Fittingly enough, Howard passed Nick Anderson on a dunk in the third quarter against the Pacers.

    Magic owner Rich DeVos, CEO Alex Martins, President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith and Anderson were at halfcourt for the ceremony where Howard was presented with the game ball from Tuesday and an overhead picture of his dunk.

    Anderson, now a Community Ambassador for the Magic, scored 10,650 points in his Magic career from 1989-99. Anderson was gracious in losing the distinction as the Magic’s all-time leading scorer, saying that he hopes Howard stays with the Magic long-term and shatters his former record.

  • Magic Chairman Dan DeVos said recently that his father, Rich DeVos, would be spending the winter and spring at his home in South Florida and would be attending more Magic home games as the season progresses.

    Mr. DeVos usually watches road games from his home in either Grand Rapids, Mich. or Boca Raton. Declining mobility is an issue when attending games, but it didn’t stop him from being on hand Thursday night for the Howard ceremony.

  • Van Gundy is somewhat baffled by the fact that the Magic’s offense has been more efficient over the past two games with Howard out of the game than with him on the floor.

    Orlando made a second-quarter comeback in Indiana on Tuesday with Howard on the bench in foul trouble. Similarly, Orlando’s best stretch of the night on Thursday was in the first quarter after Howard went out with his second foul.

    Said Van Gundy: ``It almost defies logic that we could score 58 points in the first half with Dwight playing six minutes. And then with Dwight playing the whole second half we can’t score. We’ve got to come to a better balance of Dwight in the post and using our ball movement. Part of me said I should have gone to Dwight more and part of me said we scored better by just moving the ball. We’ve got to find a better balance.’’

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

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