Denton's Dish: Magic at Sixers (4/7/12)



By John Denton
April 7, 2012


Despite all of the drama and dour feelings surrounding the Orlando Magic of late, almost to a man they predicted that by pulling together as a team that they could shake themselves out of this recent funk.

And the Magic did just that Saturday night, getting contributions from all over the roster to snap a five-win losing streak and return some much-needed good vibes back to the embattled team.

Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis carried the Magic early, J.J. Redick scored points in bunches in the fourth quarter and Dwight Howard flexed his considerable muscles throughout as Orlando defeated Philadelphia 88-82 with a workmanlike effort.

``I told them that’s the best (win) of the entire season. To win on the road against a playoff team, shooting 36 percent, with guys playing big minutes and us being down on guys (because of injuries), it was great,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``That’s the best I’ve felt of our team the entire year. We’ve played some better games where everything was smooth with ball movement and shots dropping. But as far just fighting for a win and executing and doing what we needed to do, I haven’t felt better about our team all year.’’

Caught in the middle of firestorm the past three days after Van Gundy revealed that the star center had requested his firing, Howard delivered one of his finest performances of the season on Saturday. Despite lingering back spasms that required treatment throughout the second half, Howard had 20 points, 22 rebounds and six assists. He made 12 of 18 free throws.

Davis, starting in place of the injured Ryan Anderson, had 23 points, making it the fourth straight game he’s scored in double digits. And Redick finished off the reeling Sixers with 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.

The Magic (33-23) were in the throes of their first five-game losing streak in five seasons, but are now hoping that the power of one victory can turn around their fortunes heading down the stretch.

``I’m just so thrilled right now to win a game,’’ Redick said. ``It seems like it’s been a while and it seems like everything we’ve done the past week has been scrutinized because there’s been so much turmoil. But we beat a playoff team on the road tonight and it wasn’t an easy win. We had to gut it out and I’m proud of our group.’’

The Magic inched closer to making a dramatic jump back up the standings. Indiana (34-22) lost at home to Boston on Saturday. Atlanta (34-23) beating Charlotte to edge closer to the Pacers. The Magic are in a virtual tie with the Pacers, but own the tiebreaker in that head-to-head matchup. Orlando plays doormats Detroit (Monday) and Washington (Tuesday) before hosting the Hawks on Friday in a game that could shake up the standings.

The Magic, using their 10th different starting lineup of the season, won despite not having starters Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures) and Anderson (sprained ankle) and reserve forward Quentin Richardson (back spasms). They also won for the first time since 2006 when shooting 36 percent or worse from the floor.

``That was big for us because only eight guys played, we had a lot of guys banged up and hurt, but we just needed to get a win,’’ Magic guard Jason Richardson said. ``After losing five in a row and going through a little adversity we just needed to go out there and get a win.’’

Here are the key moments from Saturday’s game in Philadelphia:


    MAGICAL MOMENTS

  • Howard went down hard to end the first half and grimaced much of the second half, but he fought through the pain and willed the Magic to a big victory.

    He started off the night shooting the ball poorly – eight of his first 10 tries were misses – but he got hot late with 11 points and eight rebounds in the fourth quarter alone. In the end, Howard had his ninth 20-point, 20-rebound effort of the season.

    ``It was very big. I just think our effort and energy was where it needed to be the whole game,’’ Howard said. ``Guys came off the bench hitting big shots and we kept believing that we were going to hit the next shot and keep getting big stops on defense. It was a great win for our team.

    ``It can (rally the team). We really needed this win,’’ Howard continued. ``We had to come out and play as hard as we can. We’re going to keep believing. It’s me and Jameer (Nelson’s) drive to keep giving guys confidence.’’

  • With the Magic up just one point with 8 minutes to play, Redick went to work on the Sixers’ defense by running a two-man game with Howard. Redick repeatedly took handoffs from Howard and used screens from the 275-pound center to shake free for four field goals.

    Redick had eight points through the first three quarters, but chipped in 11 points in the fourth quarter alone. His 3-pointer with 3:22 to play was a dagger for Philly and put Orlando up 82-76.

    ``We just ran some sets for Dwight and me to run out of the two-man game. We had run that in the first half with some success so I knew that eventually in the fourth quarter we’d go back to it,’’ Redick said. ``Dwight is a great screener and was able to free me on the ball screens and I could knock them in.’’

    Redick’s strong finish allowed him to break out of a four-game shooting slump. He had made just seven of 30 shots and three of 17 3-pointers over the previous four games.

  • For a Magic team that was desperately looking for something to believe in, Orlando got off to a stellar start in the first quarter. The Magic jumped to a 12-2 start and again led by 10 points (22-12) late in the first period on a 3-pointer by Chris Duhon.

    All five Magic starters scored in the first 12 points. Davis, who came into the night playing exceptionally well in the previous three games, had eight of the first 19 points. And Chris Duhon, who entered the game fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage (44.9 percent), drilled two 3-pointers in the first quarter after Jameer Nelson picked up two early fouls.

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • All of the Magic’s stellar play in the first quarter went down the tubes with a miserable offensive stretch in the second quarter. Remarkably, the Magic went from being up 22-12 at one point in the first quarter to down 38-28 midway through the second period.

    A 19-4 Philly run wiped out the poor play early on and vaulted the Sixers into the lead. During that stretch, the Magic went more than 6 minutes without a field goal. They missed nine straight shots at one point and started the second quarter by missing 13 of their 14 shots.

    The Magic had just four made field goals in the second quarter, getting outscored 26-13 in the period. It was reminiscent of Orlando’s January loss in Philadelphia when it had a nine-point, three-field goal quarter.

    ``Normally when you get down by 10 points like that it can turn into 20 or 30 points, but I think we just got tired of losing games like that,’’ Richardson said. ``We just kept fighting.’’

  • Injuries nearly wiped out the Magic’s entire depth at the small forward position.

    Turkoglu had surgery on Saturday morning to repair the three fractures in his right cheekbone and is likely out until the playoffs. Quentin Richardson was unable to play for a second straight game because of back spasms. And rookie DeAndre Liggins missed the morning shootaround because of a migrane headache.

    Those injuries necessitated more minutes for converted power forward Earl Clark, who did not make a shot in the first half and had a couple of midrange jump shots hit nothing but the backboard.

    MAGIC MOVES

  • Howard said all of the right things before the game about his on-court relationship with Van Gundy, lauding him as a stellar coach.

    ``We have respect for each other regardless of what’s being said or has been put out there. As a coach, I have the utmost respect for Stan,’’ Howard said before the game. ``He’s been a great coach for our team for the last five years. Whatever was said was said, but the only thing we can control right now is (the future).’’

    Referring to his troublesome back injury, Howard said: ``It’s tough, but I’m a warrior and a fighter and I’m going to find a way to get through it all. I’m going to hold my head high and keep smiling and have fun every night. I was beat up, but I gave everything I had. That’s what we have to do every night.’’

  • When Jason Richardson drilled a deep 3-pointer off the fast break early in the fourth quarter it was a welcomed sight for the Magic. It was just the second field goal in the fourth quarter in the past nine games for Richardson. The other was a late 3-pointer against Detroit on Tuesday night.

  • Nelson, a native of Chester, Pa., had approximately 50 friends and family at the game and another 300 kids there as part of his foundation. Nelson is extremely active in the youth basketball circuit in Orlando and Pennsylvania, sponsoring about a half-dozen AAU teams and providing for his former high school squad, which recently won the state title in The Keystone State.

  • Redick predicted that one big win, such as Saturday night’s scrappy victory, could do wonders for the Magic. Two weeks ago, the Magic were 32-18 and rolling along before injuries and controversy sent the team into a five-game tailspin. Now, the Magic have the right mindset to put together a strong run prior to the playoffs, Redick said.

    ``Hopefully we finish strong and get some momentum going into the playoffs,’’ Redick said. ``And hopefully we can get our spirit back. We’ve talked a lot about that as players that we’ve kind of lost our spirit a little bit. Hopefully, (Saturday) night we regained that a little bit.’’

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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