Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Clippers (2/6/12)
By John Denton
February 6, 2012
ORLANDO -- Maybe he’s a glutton for punishment or he simply wanted something to help cure what figured to be a sleepless night, but shooting guard Jason Richardson left the Orlando Magic’s locker room late Monday night with a DVD that could double as a horror film.
With the Magic down by three points and 12 seconds left in overtime, Richardson had a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the left wing rattle around the rim twice and fall out.
That missed shot left Orlando with a hollow feeling and a 107-102 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at a dejected Amway Center.
Richardson, who had a clutch three-point play in the final minute of regulation to give the Magic a lead and scored 20 points, headed straight home after the loss where he wanted to analyze the final shot over and over. As frustrated as he was, he said he could deal with the painful results of an open look not going down.
``I might have floated too much left or turned my hand a little bit. When the ball rattles in and out of the basket it was something minor,’’ Richardson said. ``I’ve got the DVD and I’ll go back home and watch that shot about 100 times. I don’t miss too many of those.
``I’ve been in the league a long time and I’ve had a lot of these moments. I’m not going to be down on myself because it was a great look,’’ Richardson continued. ``I can take the blame. Blame me, we lost the game. But I tell you one thing, I don’t miss too many of those.’’
In arguably one of the most well-played games of the young season, Los Angeles all-star point guard Chris Paul outdueled Magic superstar center Dwight Howard. The Magic’s franchise player did most of his damage early in a 33-point, 14-rebound night, while Paul scored 13 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The loss snapped Orlando’s three-game winning streak and its nine-game streak against the Clippers that dated back to Dec. of 2006.
``It was a tough loss and we have to close our possessions and do a better job (rebounding),’’ said Howard, referring to the Magic giving up two offensive rebounds down the stretch as the Clippers were protecting a one-point lead. ``All we can do is come back and get the next game and learn from our mistakes. We just have to do a better job closing it out.’’
The Magic (15-10) will use Tuesday to prepare for Wednesday’s home showdown against the rival Miami Heat. It will be the first meeting of the season between the Magic against the Heat (18-6), the leaders in the Southeast Division.
The Magic, who dug out of a nine-point hole in the fourth quarter, led 100-96 in overtime following 3-pointers by Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick. But they couldn’t hold onto the lead because of turnovers and untimely misses down the stretch. Nelson, back after missing a week because of a concussion, missed a fade-away jumper over DeAndre Jordan at the end of regulation, played well throughout, but missed two shots and turned the ball over in the extra period.
The vastly improved Clippers (15-7) couldn’t fully enjoy the victory because ethey likely lost veteran guard Chauncey Billups for the rest of the season with an Achilles tear. Billups, who scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, went down without getting hit and grabbed at the back of his ankle. He left the Amway Center on crutches and will be evaluated today to determine the severity of the injury.
Here is a look at some of the key plays from Monday’s game at the Amway Center:
- The Magic were delighted to see the return of Nelson, their point guard of the past eight seasons and a co-captain on the team. He had a season high 12 assists, scored 15 points and hit the 3-pointer in overtime off a feed from Howard.
On the final play of regulation, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy put the ball in Nelson’s hands and trusted him to make a play off a high screen-and-roll play with Howard. He put up a shot over Jordan along the baseline, but it did not drop.
``Coach knows that I like the ball at the end of games for game-winning shots,’’ Nelson said. ``He put me in a good situation and I took the shot and missed.’’
Nelson’s time on the floor was limited early on as he made his return from being out 10 days because of a concussion. He had an explosive layup past Paul and five assists in the first half by routinely getting into the paint.
The Magic limited Nelson to slightly less than 6 minutes in the first quarter and allowed him to play more than seven minutes of the second period. The plan is to ease Nelson back into the rotation until his conditioning fully returns.
- Howard was dazzling in the early going, batting Clippers center and close friend DeAndre Jordan for 21 first-half points as the Magic grabbed a 47-42 lead by intermission. For the game, he made 15 of 21 shots and made the Clippers pay for refusing to double-team him.
``That’s always my mindset to attack and force them to foul,’’ said Howard, who played a major role in both of Los Angeles’ centers – DeAndre Jordan and Reggie Evans – fouling out of the game. ``But we just gave (the game) away.’’
Howard worked especially hard to get low position and hammered the Clippers with hook shots and thunderous dunks.
Howard’s finest play of the first half came when he spun past Reggie Evans, went under the rim and dunked the ball with authority. Howard then stole Evans’ in-bounds pass and was fouled by Chris Paul before he could dunk again. The multiple efforts from the 6-foot-11, 270-pound center drew a loud ovation from the fans inside the Amway Center with many of them rising to their feet.
- The Magic looked like a well-oiled machine early in the game, but inexplicably came unhinged offensively.
Orlando made 13 of its first 19 shots for a 30-point first quarter. That allowed them to build a lead as large at 15 points early in the game.
But the Magic’s offensive flow soon ground to a halt. The Magic made just seven of 17 shots in the second quarter with three turnovers. They were stuck on nine points for most of the second quarter before a strong finish got them to 15 points.
Things didn’t get any better in the third period as the Magic had to settle for several desperation shots at the end of the clock. They made just six of 21 shots in a 17-point third quarter.
- Hedo Turkoglu has been the Magic’s best performer in the fourth quarter all season, but he never got on the floor for the final 17 minutes of the game.
In 25 minutes of action, Turkoglu missed all six of his shots. Down the stretch, Van Gundy opted to stay with Richardson (20 points), Quentin Richardson (nine points) and Redick (eight points).
``He just wasn’t playing well,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Right now, Hedo’s in a bit of a funk and not playing well so I didn’t go back to him.’’
- The Clippers could have suffered a major blow midway through the third quarter when Billups went down and immediately grasped at his left Achilles. The Clippers are calling the injury an Achilles injury and said the veteran guard was being evaluated. A MRI on Tuesday will reveal whether there’s a tear or not in the ligament.
Billups scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter by hitting three 3-pointers down the stretch. But he made a quick movement for a rebound and went to the floor without any contact. The 35-year-old Billups needed help to get off the floor and headed straight to the visiting locker room.
He finished with 18 points and five 3-pointers and 10 of his 11 shots were from beyond the 3-point stripe.
``He means everything,’’ Paul said when asked of Billups’ importance to the Clippers. ``He’s the best guard I’ve ever started with since I have been in the NBA. I trust him with everything on and off the court.’’
- The Magic seemed determined not to end up on any of the highlight shows and twice fouled Griffin when he went up to dunk. Nelson stopped an alley-oop lob in the first half by backing into Griffin to stop a dunk attempt.
In the second half, Chris Duhon stopped a Griffin dunk attempt on a pick-and-roll play with a hard foul. And in the fourth quarter when Griffin ran off a screen and seemed poised for a dunk, Howard slashed him across the wrists.
Griffin missed a go-ahead free throw with 22 seconds left in overtime. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
- Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis returned following a two-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team. He had a blowup with Van Gundy in the team’s morning practice last Friday and did not play in wins against Cleveland and Indiana over the weekend.
Davis said that he issued an apology to Van Gundy and Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith, but said he wouldn’t apologize for being an emotional player who desperately wants to win games.
``It was real tough watching the games knowing I can contribute and help, but things are the way they are and we have to work through them,’’ said Davis, who had seven points, three rebounds and two steals of Griffin in overtime. ``Everything has been OK. I’m a passionate guy and I want to win. I want to do my job. Sometimes people bump heads, but we’re a family and we work it out. I apologized, but I’m an emotional person. We work through our problems because we’re a family.’’
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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