Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Cavaliers (2/3/12)



By John Denton
February 3, 2012


ORLANDO – For much of Friday Dwight Howard did his best Karch Kiraly impersonation, spiking and swatting shots all over the Amway Center the way the famed volleyball player might. And when he wasn’t blocking shots, the Orlando Magic’s superstar center even saw a few free throws drop when the Cleveland Cavaliers resorted to the ``Hack-A-Howard’’ game plan.

But what gave Howard the most joy on this night was the return of Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu -- Richardson from an injury, Turkoglu from a prolonged funk. Their shooting and attacking the rim freed Howard up to do other things, primarily swat shots.

Richardson scored 19 points in his first game back from a bone bruise in his left knee and Turkoglu scored 11 of his 18 points in the second half to support Howard’s near triple-double effort in Orlando’s 102-94 smackdown of the Cavaliers.

``The biggest thing that I saw was Turk being aggressive, which is what I’ve been telling him that we need him to do, and J-Rich doing a better job of taking shots,’’ Howard said. ``We need that from those guys. We need our wing men to be aggressive to soften up the defense on the block.’’

Howard softened Cleveland up plenty with his season-high eight blocked shots and also added 19 points and 16 rebounds. The Magic (14-9) won a second consecutive game after losing four in a row previously to capture some good vibes to take with them for Saturday’s game at Indiana.

Of course, because the Super Bowl is in Indianapolis this week, the Magic had to fly to Cincinnati on Friday night. They will have a walk-through in the ballroom of their suburban Kentucky hotel on Saturday morning and fly to Indiana on Saturday afternoon just prior to the 7 p.m. tipoff.

``Onto Cincinnati to face the Royals,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said in jest, referring to Cincy’s former NBA team.

Added Richardson: ``I can’t wait to visit Cincinnati … and Kentucky. It’s the schedule and it’s terrible, but it’s just what we have to do.’’

Ryan Anderson had 17 points and two 3-pointers, while Von Wafer added 11 points and a thunderous one-handed dunk in the second half off the Magic’s bench. Earl Clark had two more dunks and eight points, while new point guard Ish Smith added two points and four assists in nine foul-plagued minutes.

The Magic’s already thin frontline was without Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who was suspended for two games earlier in the day for conduct detrimental to the team. Davis won’t be available Saturday in Indy, meaning Clark and Daniel Orton could see time as the team’s backup center.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key plays from Friday’s game at the Amway Center:

    MAGICAL MOMENTS

  • Friday’s game was a so-so effort on the offensive end of the floor for Howard (5 of 12 shooting), but defensively he was a beast whenever the Cavs challenged him in the paint.

    He blocked a season-best eight shots, getting them both when guarding his man and also when coming over to help from the weakside.

    Howard stuffed Rookie of the Year favorite Kyrie Irving (18 points on just seven of 21 shooting) in the third quarter. Then, there was the swat of an Antawn Jamison jump shot. But Howard’s most dazzling play of the night was when he chased down Cleveland point guard Ramon Sessions and swatted away a layup attempt by closing almost 10 feet with his final two steps.

    ``I just tried to be aggressive on the defensive end and block shots,’’ Howard said. ``The last couple of games we’ve been playing against a lot of quick guards who take it and go. So I was just trying to be the guy back there for us who could block shots and make our defense work.’’

    Howard entered the night seventh in the NBA in blocks (2.0 a game) and should climb the charts even higher after registering his most blocks in a game since getting a career-best 10 three years ago against Oklahoma City.

  • Back after missing two games with a bone bruise in his left knee, Richardson looked refreshed and ready throughout Friday’s game. He finished with 19 points by making seven of 12 shots and three of four 3-pointers.

    He had 14 points in the first half alone, helping the Magic race to a 48-37 lead at intermission. Richardson made five of his first six shots, two of them coming on long 3-pointers. He also got into the lane and scored on a post-up move and got to the free throw line three times. Van Gundy drew up more plays on Thursday and Friday morning in an attempt to get Richardson more involved in the offense.

    Richardson showed that the knee was healthy in the early going with his most spectacular play of the season. He took a long feed from Chris Duhon and reverse dunked the ball much to the delight of the sellout crowd.

    ``I don’t have too many of those left,’’ said the 31-year-old Richardson, a former two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion. ``I have to save those now.’’

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • Yet another team attempted to scramble up the game late by fouling Howard intentionally, also known as the ``Hack-A-Howard.’’

    From the 3-minute mark to the 2-minute mark, Cleveland intentionally fouled Howard five times. Of those 10 free throws, Howard made five free throws. The strategy nearly worked as the Cavs got within five points of the lead (95-90), but couldn’t press the Magic any further. Teams can’t foul a player away from the ball in the final two minutes without it resulting in free throws and the return of possession.

    ``Until I get better at the line that’s what they are going to continue to do. It is what it is,’’ Howard said. ``I shot (the free throws) better, but I have to continue to work on them. They’ll fall. It was a good game plan coming down the stretch. As long as we got the win, that’s the only thing that matters.’’

  • It’s no secret that Davis has been unhappy in Orlando so far this season, and his suspension on Friday is likely a culmination of that pent-up frustration. Davis had a verbal spat with Van Gundy following the team’s morning practice and the incident never threatened to become physical, according to Van Gundy.

    Davis left Boston for Orlando, in part, for more of a role in the Magic’s starting lineup. But that never materialized because of the play of Ryan Anderson and the need for Davis to serve as the backup center behind Howard. He admitted last week in Boston that he was disappointed being in ``the same role that I was in in Boston.’’

    Davis is a highly emotional player and that passion sometimes work for and against the power forward. The Magic acquired him because they wanted an edgy player willing to do the dirty work with rebounding, defending and setting screens. But his unhappiness with his reduced role and his desire to shoot more has drew the anger of Van Gundy and the attention of GM Otis Smith.

    Davis’ emotions often got the best of him in Boston where he was suspended at least twice. Also, he was filmed twice crying on the bench following arguments with teammate Kevin Garnett and coach Doc Rivers.

    Van Gundy said the two-game suspension should have no effect on Davis’ long-term future with the Magic. Smith, Van Gundy and Davis will meet Monday morning and if all goes well the power forward will be back in the rotation against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Amway Center.

    MAGIC MOVES

  • Point guard Ish Smith, who signed on Thursday, made his debut with the Magic in Friday’s second quarter. Despite having just one practice and a walkthrough session with the Magic, Smith ran the offense well and finished with two points, four assists and two rebounds in nine minutes. The problem, however, was that Smith committed three fouls in his first five minutes on the floor and five in the nine minutes total that he played.

    Smith played with Houston and Memphis last season and was briefly with Golden State this season before being waived. He was about to play with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA’s Developmental League before getting the call to return to the NBA.

    ``I was just trying to do whatever coach asked of me to do out there,’’ Smith said. ``When he called a play I just tried to execute it the best that I could. And I was listening to my teammates, trying to soak up everything that I could.’’

  • J.J. Redick has been one of Orlando’s most consistent players all season, but Friday was a night to forget for the reserve guard.

    Redick missed all five of his shots, four of them coming from behind the 3-point line. Redick has been bothered of late by a strained hamstring and was unable to practice on Thursday after playing well on Wednesday against Washington.

    Redick should be available Saturday in Indianapolis – after making the pit stop in Cincinnati, of course. Shame on the NBA for not reserving a block of rooms for the visiting NBA team for Saturday’s game. If they couldn’t do that, they shouldn’t have scheduled a game in Indy on Saturday night.

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 jd41898@aol.com

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