Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Pistons (4/9/12)
By John Denton
April 9, 2012
ORLANDO -- Dwight Howard looked his resplendent best Monday night, dressed in a tailored gray, three-piece suit, a burgundy tie, a checked shirt and a complementary maroon pocket square.
And for one night at least no one even noticed that the six-time all-star center was out of action for the rebounding and suddenly surging Orlando Magic.
Continuing to ride the momentum from Saturday’s stirring victory in Philadelphia, the Magic didn’t miss a beat on Monday despite not having Howard and two other primary rotation players in a 119-89 throttling of the Detroit Pistons.
The Magic (34-23) shared the ball beautifully and repeatedly gashed the Pistons (21-36) with 52.5 percent shooting and 15 3-pointers. Orlando got 22 points and six 3-pointers from Jason Richardson, 20 points and four 3-pointers from J.J. Redick, 18 points and nine assists from Jameer Nelson and 16 points and 16 rebounds from Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis.
``We’ve been a good team all season, but these last couple of games we’ve really been on the same page,’’ Davis said. ``I’m really happy we’re headed this way because to win a championship we need to be hot going into the playoffs. We have Dwight (Howard) and (Hedo Turkoglu) out, but when we play like this and everybody is on the same page we’re a really tough team to beat.’’
Orlando improved to 20-5 this season when placing five players in double figures. Remarkably, none of those players were named Howard, who missed another game because of lingering lower back spasms. Howard could play Tuesday, but is most likely to return on Friday when Orlando hosts the rival Atlanta Hawks.
``Obviously we were missing Dwight out there and he’s a big piece of what we do, but not having me just makes us play even harder because we know we have to come up with those hustle plays,’’ said Ryan Anderson, who had 14 points and two 3-pointers in his first game back after missing three games with a sprained ankle. ``We know that we can do it with this group, but we have to play great defense and rebound the ball. Those are the keys when we’re missing guys.’’
The Magic played so well – they led by as many as 31 points early in the fourth quarter – that head coach Stan Van Gundy was able to empty the bench and rest the starters for Tuesday night’s game in Washington. Davis, who was booed a couple of times earlier in the season, received a loud ovation when he checked out of the game and Howard and Nelson playfully got him a towel and water as he approached the bench.
The lopsided victory allowed the Magic to avenge two losses this season to Detroit. The Pistons won in suburban Detroit last week, another game in which the Magic had to play without Howard in the middle because of the back trouble.
``Our energy and our life have been better,’’ Van Gundy said. ``This season has been long and we’ve been trudging along. But now there are only a few weeks to go and guys are like, `Let’s play and get ready (for the playoffs).’ I just like the level of our intensity right now.’’
Here are some of the key moments from Monday’s Magic victory from the Amway Center:
- Much of the Magic’s struggles lately were caused by simultaneous struggles by Richardson and Redick. But the two shooting guards showed signs of breaking out of their slumps on Saturday in the victory in Philadelphia and carried it over to Monday night.
Richardson, a Michigan native, hit seven of 10 shots and six of seven 3-pointers, routinely burning the Pistons in transition. Richardson had to start at small forward because of the injury to Hedo Turkoglu, who had surgery on Saturday to repair three fractures in his right cheekbone.
Redick, the new starter at shooting guard, continued to make plays off dribble-hand-off plays as he did against the Sixers on Saturday. He hit seven of 10 shots, four of seven 3-pointers and both of his free throw attempts. Redick brought the crowd to its feet with 8 minutes to play when he drilled a deep off-balanced 3-pointer as the shot clock expired.
Said Van Gundy: ``Our wing guys were tremendous.’’
- Davis continued his torrid play of late by exerting tremendous effort setting screens, grabbing loose balls and making powerful spin moves in the lane.
He had his 10th rebound just minutes into the second quarter and he reached double-double status with three minutes remaining in the first half. Overall, he made six of 14 shots, hit four of five free throws and six of his 16 rebounds came on the offensive end of the floor.
Over the past five games, Davis has averaged 20.6 points and 12.2 rebounds. He’s shot 46.9 percent over the past five games, pushing his shooting percentage (40.2 percent) over 40 percent for the first time all season.
``I kind of view the game differently when I’m starting instead of coming off the bench,’’ Davis said. ``Usually I’m coming off the bench and playing 20 minutes. I feel more frantic when I’m only playing 20 minutes, like I have to do something right away. This (starting at center) is just my role right now and I’m trying to make the most of it.’’
- With Davis playing his best basketball in a Magic uniform and Anderson back healthy, the debate has already begun as to what Orlando should do when Howard is healthy.
Should the Magic keep Davis in the starting lineup so that they don’t disrupt the rhythm he has developed over the last two weeks? Or does Anderson continue to start at power forward because of the 3-point shooting he provides?
Howard and Davis have played well together on the defensive end of the floor, but they haven’t meshed offensively because they both prefer to play in the paint. Van Gundy thinks Davis is better suited as a reserve center than as a power forward. The likelihood is that Anderson will start at the power forward slot, while Davis will swing between the two spots off the bench to spell Howard.
``I’m looking at (having all three players together) as a positive,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Before when (Davis) wasn’t playing as well we were running Dwight’s minutes up pretty high. Now, we can get those under control. I’m not sure we can run Glen’s minutes to 37 or 40 minutes. But having all three will allow us to get Dwight down to about 36 minutes and keep Ryan and Glen in the 28-32 minute range.’’
- Filling in for the suspended Chris Duhon (violation of team rules), reserve point guard Ish Smith played exceptionally well in the first half. In just six minutes of action in the first half, Smith made two runners in the lane and handed out five assists.
Smith finished with six points, seven assists and three steals. Combined with Nelson, the Magic’s two point guards had 24 points, 16 assists and four steals.
- Reserve forward Earl Clark lost his cool in the fourth quarter when he argued a non-call when his shot was blocked. Clark had three points and five rebounds with his one basket coming on a thunderous dunk. But after his shot was blocked and he thought a foul should have been called, Clark argued to referee Scott Foster. Clark picked up one technical foul and seconds later he was ejected from the game with 7.5 seconds remaining for continuing to argue.
- These numbers shed a little light on just how dominant the Magic were on Monday night: In Davis’ 35 minutes on the floor, the Magic were plus-28; in Quentin Richardson’s 25 minutes, the Magic were a plus-26; and in Ish Smith’s 25 minutes, the Magic were a plus-20.
``We’re just going out there and playing the right way,’’ said Nelson, who was a plus-10 in his 29 minutes. ``We’re all out there pushing the ball, helping on defense and offensively swinging the ball. We’re playing a lot harder, especially on the defensive end. Our defense and rebounding are generating a lot of our offense. Getting stops and getting loose balls gives us more energy out there.’’
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