Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Pacers (1/29/12)

By John Denton
January 29, 2012

ORLANDO – One by one, Stan Van Gundy ticked off the hallmarks that have made the Orlando Magic one of the NBA's most successful teams in recent years.

And because Van Gundy had a negative response at the end of each category on the stat sheet in front of him, the Magic continue to be one of the NBA's most enigmatic teams and one currently in a troubling free fall.

``The three biggest things we've always said around here in winning games is defending -- no. Rebound -- no. And taking care of the ball -- no,'' Van Gundy frustratingly said after his Magic dropped their third straight game in a 106-85 loss to the Indiana Pacers. ``You do those three things and you'd have a chance to win every night. We did none of them and had a 20-point loss.''

Still struggling to score and pounded again on the glass and on hustle plays, the Magic's puzzling slide continued with another lopsided loss. In the matter of the past seven days, the Magic (12-8) have lost by 31, 26 and 21 points and that doesn't even cover the most crushing loss of the week. That came when Orlando blew a 27-point lead in a home defeat to the Boston Celtics.

Once 11-4 and on top of the Southeast Division, the Magic are searching for answers to their problems. They are looking both outward and inward in hopes of pulling out of a funk that no one could have ever seen coming.

``This is just a really bad stretch, probably for most of the guys in here the worst of our careers,'' said Magic point guard Chris Duhon, who started in place of the injured Jameer Nelson (concussion) on Sunday and scored 14 points. ``We've just go to find a way to get out of this funk. The easiest way to do that is playing harder than the other team.''

That simply wasn't the case on Sunday against Indiana (13-6), the team the Magic rolled over 102-83 on Tuesday. The vastly improved Pacers had 24 more shot attempts and 14 more second-chance points thanks to a 43-33 edge on the boards and 13 offensive rebounds.

And defensively, the Magic had no answer for Danny Granger (24 points), David West (16 points) and point guards George Hill (16 points) and Darren Collinson (11 points and 10 rebounds) for a Pacers team that shot 51.1 percent and hit eight 3-pointers.

``Look, we're not going to win with that defense,'' Van Gundy muttered. ``There's not anybody that we're going to beat playing defense the way that we've been playing.''

The Magic are back in action again tonight in Philadelphia against the much-improved 76ers (14-6). It will be the Magic's sixth game in eight nights, and there is no time for them to wallow in their troubles. Magic guard J.J. Redick said he's confident this Magic team has what it takes to get the season back on track.

``It's been a miserable week overall,'' Redick said. ``We're not playing as hard as the other team. Maybe that's the (hectic) schedule, I don't know. But we have to muster up the courage and fortitude to reach inside of ourselves and figure out how tough we are and be better.''

Here is a closer look at some of the key moments in Sunday night's game at the Amway Center:


  • Superstar center Dwight Howard scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked two shots. But even Howard seems affected by the malaise of late, turning the ball over five times on Sunday and missing 11 of 15 attempts from the free throw line.

    Howard made some comments after the New Orleans loss that was critical of some of his teammates' effort. Ryan Anderson, who had 11 points and three 3-pointers on Sunday despite a bruised calf muscle, said he had no problem with Howard demanding more from his teammates.

    ``Everyone just needs to hold everyone accountable and I'm not here to point any fingers,'' Anderson said. ``It starts with you and if you say something like that you have to play hard. Dwight has played hard and he'\s just looking for everybody else to back him up and come out with a ton of energy. That's all he's asking for and I don't think that's an insult or anything. That's the truth.''

  • Filling in for Nelson, Duhon played admirably and shot the ball better than at any point this season. And Duhon did so despite clutching at a left wrist that he sprained early in the game.

    A reluctant shooter last season in his first year with the Magic, Duhon made his first four shots of the first half.

    In the game, he made six of nine shots and two 3-pointers when Pacers' point guards went down to dig on Howard in the post. Duhon finished with 14 points and five assists, but also had four turnovers.


  • One of the biggest reasons behind the Magic's recent swoon has been the rash of turnovers plaguing the team.

    Orlando kicked the ball away 25 times in Monday's 56-point nightmare in Boston. They got the turnover issues under control on Tuesday and Thursday, but gave the ball away 23 times on Friday, resulting in 28 New Orleans' points.

    The Magic struggled mightily taking care of the ball early on Sunday, giving the ball away 11 times in the first quarter and 14 times in the game's first 17 minutes. Overall, the Magic had 19 turnovers on Sunday resulting in 21 points for Indiana.

    But when the Magic took care of the ball -- they didn't have a turnover in the final 7:25 of the first half -- they used a dominant 18-2 run to storm to a 51-48 lead by halftime.

    ``In that stretch we were moving the ball, taking good shots, had a ton of energy and were playing really well on both ends of the floor,'' Anderson said. ``That's how we can play. We can be a tough team to guard.''


  • After seeing the way Boston rookie guard Avery Bradley disrupted the Magic's offensive flow with ball pressure, foes are attacking the Magic's guards bringing the ball up the floor.

    Duhon was stripped twice near midcourt, leading to Indiana run-out baskets. And Orlando is having to use Hedo Turkoglu to handle the ball and that's taking away from his abilities to make plays.

    ``I'm sure we'll see that (Monday night) against (Philadelphia's) Jrue Holiday,'' Van Gundy said. ``We've got to handle it better. It's the NBA and we've got to get the ball up the court.''

  • Orlando's Glen ``Big Baby'' Davis, all 290 pounds of him, dove over the court side scorer's table and into press row in the third quarter while chasing a loose ball.

    Davis knocked Indiana TV analyst Quinn Buckner over, flattened two stats monitors and rearranged two table. Fortunately, no sports writers were injured in the process, namely yours truly.

  • The final word comes from Redick, the Magic's most reflective player: ``I don't know where to start (with fixing this skid). It's a lot of things, not just one thing. I wish I could pinpoint one thing. I wish there was an algebraic equation and I had a final answer, but there isn't one.''

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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