Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Sixers (2/15/12)
By John Denton
February 15, 2012
ORLANDO – When the Orlando Magic last played the Philadelphia 76ers two-plus weeks ago, they were enduring a sixth game in eight nights, didn’t have starters Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson and were lodged in their worst funk of the season.
Now, fast forward to Wednesday when the rested and healthy Magic took apart the much-improved Sixers with a scintillating shooting night from all corners of the Amway Center.
Facing a Philadelphia team that had allowed 100 points just once in the past 13 starts, the Magic shot 53 percent from the floor, made 15 3-pointers and got a career-best assist effort from Nelson in a 103-87 beatdown of the Sixers.
Nelson tied a career high with 14 assists – with 10 of them resulting in 3-pointers for the suddenly surging Magic, 19-11 and winners of three straight games. In fact, Orlando has won seven of nine games since an ugly 74-69 loss to Philadelphia back on Jan. 30 and both of those losses were in overtime efforts.
``This team looks to me for energy a lot of times and we’re playing harder and with a lot more focus now,’’ said Nelson, who also had 12 points to go with his 14 assists and he made life miserable for Philly’s Jrue Holiday (1 of 8 shooting). ``We’re a team that’s trying to get better every day. We’ve been playing with more energy lately and a lot of that starts with me.’’
Of Nelson’s 14 assists, 10 led to 3-pointers (30 pointers) and four led to two-point baskets (eight points). Factoring in the 12 points that Nelson scored himself he accounted for 50 of Orlando’s 103 points. The Magic were plus-19 in Nelson’s 29 minutes on the floor.
Philadelphia (20-10) made a brief run in the third quarter, but never had a chance against a Magic team that started the game by blowing out to a 26-8 lead. And the Magic again pulled away late because of the shooting by Ryan Anderson (27 points and seven 3-pointers), Jason Richardson (14 points, four 3-pointers) and Dwight Howard (17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks).
It was the second consecutive game that the Magic have had at least five players in double figures in scoring. They are 11-2 this season when that happens.
``That’s when we play the best – when the ball is moving, everybody is active and everybody is involved. That’s the way we can play,’’ said Anderson, who was officially named as a participant in the Foot Locker 3-Point Shootout earlier in the day and then hammered the Sixers for seven of 10 from beyond the arc. ``We just have so many weapons on this team. We just moved the ball really well and played great.’’
Here is a look at some of the key moments from Wednesday’s game at the Amway Center:
``I normally don’t miss a lot of shots before the game, but I missed five in a row and Brendan was looking at me like (oh no),’’ Anderson remembered. ``So maybe that’s what I need to do from now on. But my shots felt really good in the game.’’
Early in the night, Anderson shot the ball as well as he has at any point this season – and that’s saying something considering that he’s made at least five 3s in seven games this season.
He made his first five shots, four of them coming on 3-pointers and the fifth on a driving dunk. By the time he missed his first shot – on an off-balanced 3-pointer that served as a heat check of sorts – the Magic were already up 26-8.
Anderson scored 14 first-quarter points. His hot shooting helped the Magic race to a 55-39 lead at the intermission. As a team, the Magic made 57.9 percent from the field (22 of 38) and 53.8 percent from 3-point range (seven of 13). The 57.9 percent in the first half was the Magic’s third best shooting in a half this season, trailing only the 63.2 percent first half against Portland and the 61.3 second half against Golden State.
He set a new second high in assists with 14. He had the pass that led to 3-pointers by Anderson and Richardson in the fourth quarter that led to consecutive back-breaking 3-pointers that put the Magic up 97-82.
``I’m out there trying to attack. It’s never about me shooting or passing, but just trying to stay in attack mode,’’ Nelson said. ``If I’m getting in the lane and drawing defenders I’m going to get the ball to the next guy over for the open shot.’’
Doing that could be troublesome because the condensed schedule offers the Magic few chances to have practices with full contact. In an attempt to save energy for games coming at a fast and furious pace, Van Gundy has drastically shortened practices, eliminated most morning shootarounds and gotten rid of full-contact drills. Van Gundy said the effects of not doing those things have taken a toll on the Magic’s defense.
The inability to get stops prevented the Magic from being able to pull away from the Sixers despite some torrid shooting offensively.
Philly made 14 of 22 shots in the third quarter, allowing it to be within nine points of the lead into the final period.
``For the most part I didn’t think we were bad defensively,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We had one quarter (the third) where we didn’t really defend them at all, but other than that we did a pretty good job.’’
It’s the second death in the family that Davis has had to endure in the past four weeks. His grandmother died in January. Also, he had to deal with a two-game suspension for having a heated verbal exchange with Van Gundy during a morning practice.
Davis had four points, two rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes on Wednesday night.
``A lot of times people don’t know what you’re going through sometimes,’’ Davis said, referring to the boos he received on Monday night. ``It’s been tough, but I’ll be all right.’’
Nelson’s 14 assists topped the 12 he had last week against the Los Angeles Clippers in his first game back following a concussion. The 14 assists also equaled his career high set previously in 2010 against the Miami Heat.
Clark, who has earned more trust from the coaching staff with his strong play of late, had five rebounds and two points in nine minutes.
Quentin Richardson had two rebounds and two assists, but it was his defensive effort on Philly’s Andre Iguodala where he had his biggest impact. Iguodala scored the Sixers’ first seven points of the second half, prompting Van Gundy to replace Hedo Turkoglu with Richardson. Iguodala scored just two baskets the rest of the game.
``I hope I can do that every night,’’ Richardson said of his impact defensively. ``I’m not a guy who is going to get 15 shots a game so I’ve got to have a mindset of making an impact on the defensive end. I just tried to make it tough on (Iguodala).’’
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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