Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Pacers (3/11/12)
By John Denton
March 11, 2012
ORLANDO – Trudging off the floor midway through the fourth quarter with a 30-point, 13-rebound, five-assist effort already in the books, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard received a thunderous standing ovation from the sellout crowd inside the Amway Center.
At that point you couldn’t help but wonder how many more nights like this there will be in Orlando?
Will these spectacular moments unceremoniously come to an end by Thursday’s trade deadline when Howard is possibly dealt elsewhere? Will the memorable moments last through the rest of the season as the Magic retain Howard and hope to sway his thinking? Or can the two sides ultimately reach an agreement that will keep the game’s most dominant center in a Magic uniform for the rest of his career?
All of those questions were in play Sunday night as Howard and his Magic took a wrecking ball to the Indiana Pacers, dominating them early and routing them 107-94 in one of the most impressive victories of the season.
Howard made 11 of 14 shots and eight of 12 free throws. Five of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor. And in his spare time he also chipped in five assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
``I think he was trying to raise his trade value,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said in jest. ``Nah, we don’t think about (how much longer Howard will be in a Magic uniform).’’ Neither, apparently, does Howard. When asked afterward if he’s looking forward to Thursday’s trade deadline passing, Howard said: ``I’m looking forward to the next game that we have. That’s the only thing on my mind right now.’’
Also on the minds of the Magic (27-15) is the fact that they haven’t beaten two solid playoff teams in the past two games. The Magic held on in Chicago on Thursday and beat the Pacers (23-16) from start to finish on Sunday. It was Orlando’s third defeat of Indiana this season.
``I think as a team we’ve been playing great basketball,’’ Howard said. ``We started tonight out great moving the ball. We had some mental lapses at the end of the second quarter. But we came out, got stops and went on a big run. When we put four quarters together, that’s great for our team.’’
Howard got plenty of help from Redick, who shredded the Pacers in pick-and-roll plays and registered a career high in assists with nine. He also added 18 points and three 3-pointers and held his own defensively against Indiana’s Paul George.
``I hope we’re getting better. The last two games have been good and we’re going through a stretch right now where we’re playing a bunch of good teams and we’ll be tested every night in a very difficult way,’’ Redick said. ``Miami is going to be geared up to play us (on Tuesday) and then we go right to San Antonio. That’s two of the teams that have better records than us so we have to be ready to play.’’
The Magic were without starting shooting guard Jason Richardson and starting small forward Hedo Turkoglu, but never missed a beat. Richardson was out with a sprained ankle, while Turkoglu was suspended for making contact with an official in Thursday’s defeat of the Chicago Bulls. The hope is that both will be back by Tuesday’s showdown against the Heat.
- The Magic were concerned about how their pick-and-roll game would suffer with Turkoglu out suspended, but Redick soothed those fears with his dazzling play in the first half.
Redick picked the Pacers apart early in the game off pick-and-roll plays, piling up nine points, four assists and three rebounds in the first quarter. Of those four assists, two resulted in Howard drunks and a third was to Ryan Anderson for a 3-pointer.
Redick had five assists by halftime (to go with 12 points) and he equaled his career high of eight assists with a minute still remaining in the third quarter. Redick recorded his career-best ninth assist in the fourth quarter.
``When Turk and J-Rich are playing that takes away some of the need for me to be a playmaker. But I went into this game wanting to be aggressive,’’ Redick said. ``They seemed to have some problems with that side pick-and-roll with me and Dwight. Either I was getting open jumpers or he was getting dunks. And when they started coming over with their (power forward) Ryan (Anderson) got a couple of buckets out of it.’’
- Howard’s domination inside had many of the Pacers’ players muttering to themselves throughout the game. When they helped on Redick coming off screen-and-roll plays, Howard ended up getting dunks. When they dug down on the magic’s beg man from the wings it resulted in the Magic making 10 of 27 3-point shots. And when they left the Magic star one-on-one in the post, Howard destroyed with hook shots and spin moves.
``You have to pick your poison with them,’’ Indiana power forward Tyler Hansbrough said. ``They do a good job of surrounding Dwight with shooters and it gives him space. You can’t really double Dwight without taking a chance on them knocking down threes. To beat them they have to miss some threes and they didn’t do that.’’
- Much has been made of the struggles for Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis’ struggles to fit into the Magic’s system in his first season in Orlando. Sunday night gave another glimpse at those troubles as Davis had trouble handling the ball.
In 12 minutes of the first half, he turned the ball over four times. His dribble-handoff pass to Redick resulted in a Paul George dunk. His inbounds pass after a made basket was stolen by Darren Collison, resulting in Van Gundy demanding a timeout. Later in the first half, Davis lost the ball out of bounds on a spin move for another turnover.
Davis felt that David West knocked the ball out of bounds and he argued with referee Kevin Cutler about the issue. Davis walked off the court as the final seconds of the first half expired and violently jerked his tucked-in jersey out of his shorts.
Davis did make a stellar defensive play in the third quarter, stepping over in front of a driving Granger to take a charge that wiped out a layup.
Davis finished with eight points. He admitted afterward that the season feels like a wasted one as he adjusts to the Magic’s system.
``It’s a whole different culture and system and it’s tough getting used to things here,’’ Davis said. ``I took (switching teams) for granted; it’s really hard. It’ll probably take me the whole season. This is like a warm up season for me. Thankfully I’ve got three more years here. Hopefully, I’ll see better days.’’
- Howard became irate in the fourth quarter following a fracas in the post with Indiana reserve center Lou Amundson. Howard claims that Amundson grabbed his crotch while the two of them were fighting for position in low post.
On the following possession, Amundson grabbed Howard from behind around the shoulders. Clearly upset with what was going on, Howard confronted Amundson, resulting in double technical fouls. It is Howard’s eight technical foul of the season.
Howard also had a stern warning for Hansbrough when he glared at him. And when Indiana coach Frank Vogel was asking why Amundson had been hit with a technical foul, Howard informed him that the center had hit/grabbed him below the belt.
- Veteran point guard Chris Duhon shot the ball well, making three of four 3-pointers for nine points. An unwilling shooter much of last season, Duhon has been aggressively seeking out shots more this season and it’s paying off for him and the Magic. He is a solid shooter, but sometimes struggles with the dilemma of whether to shoot or get the ball to his teammates.
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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