Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Hawks (4/13/12)



By John Denton
April 13, 2012


ORLANDO – Maybe it was fitting that it was Friday The 13th because the hits just keep on coming for the snake-bitten Orlando Magic.

As if suffering a humiliating 109-81 loss to the Atlanta Hawks wasn’t damaging enough for the Magic on Friday night, the news got worse when it was revealed that franchise center Dwight Howard has a herniated disc in his lower back. The injury will likely keep Howard out until the start of the playoffs later this month.

``You know, this (season) just blows my mind,’’ said Magic backup center Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who will man the middle with Howard out.

At issue now for the Magic (34-25) is finding a way to win enough games to hang onto their playoff spot. Currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, Orlando is three games ahead of Philadelphia and New York. The magic number is still two – meaning any combination of two Magic wins or losses by Milwaukee will at least get Orlando into the playoffs.

Howard, who missed his fifth game in the past seven, flew to Los Angeles on Friday morning and stayed in California after being diagnosed with the herniated disc by Dr. Robert Watkins. The six-time all-star’s return will be determined by how he responds to therapy, but the thinking within the organization is that Howard will need at least two weeks of rest and rehab.

``We definitely want him back, but the regular season isn’t that important now,’’ said Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson, who scored just seven points in Friday’s loss. ``What is important now is the playoffs. We want him out there with us, but it’s more important for him to be healthy by the playoffs.’’

Without Howard in the middle to guard the rim, Atlanta (35-24) shredded the Magic’s defense. Atlanta scored 36 points in the first quarter, shot better than 60 percent for much of the first half and led by as much as 35 points. And after the Hawks made 14 3-pointers and shot 50.6 percent, Atlanta handed Orlando its worst home loss of the season.

The double whammy of getting beaten by the Hawks for a third time this season and losing Howard for the rest of the regular season left the Magic grasping for anything to believe in right now.

``I would assume that people are out there trying,’’ huffed Magic guard J.J. Redick, ``but assumptions can sometimes be wrong.’’

Davis scored 16 points, while Von Wafer had 16 points off the bench. The Magic made just 38.8 percent of their shots and missed 22 of 28 shots from beyond the 3-point line.

``We just didn’t do anything right tonight,’’ Richardson said. ``No excuses.’’

Atlanta, who remained two games back of Indiana for the No. 3 seed, got 17 points and five 3-pointers from Jannero Pargo off the bench. Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Marvin Williams each had 16 points for the Hawks. Smith, a childhood friend of Howard’s, spent time at the star center’s house on Thursday night as Howard was getting a massage.

``Hopefully he will have a speedy recovery. I definitely don’t want him to rush it back before it is fully healthy for the postseason,’’ Smith said. ``This short season has been a wear and tear on everybody’s body. Hopefully he can get the rest that he needs and the therapy in order for his back to not tighten up.’’

Here is a look back at some of the key plays from Friday night’s game at the Amway Center:


    MAGICAL MOMENTS

  • Playing extended minutes again because of the Magic’s many injuries, Davis continued to thrive with some more stellar late-season play.

    His hustle and scoring in the low post kept the Magic close early in the game. He made eight of 13 shots, most of them coming on pick-and-roll post-ups at point blank range. He also grabbed nine rebounds with four of the boards coming off the offensive glass.

    He’s now scored in double figures in seven consecutive games, averaging 18.7 points during that run. But after the game it was the Magic’s defense, more specifically a defense now without Howard, that Davis wanted to address.

    ``Collectively we’re going to have to play defense because that’s really the only way we’re going to be able to stay in games,’’ Davis said. ``We’re not going to hit shots all of the time, but we have to defend to have a chance.’’

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • Playing once again without their defensive stopper, the Magic were mostly defenseless in the first half against a Hawks team that aggressively attacked the rim and shot the ball well from deep.

    The Hawks made their first four shots and 13 of 18 early in the first quarter. And when Kirk Hinrich drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer the Hawks had hit 15 of 20 shots (75 percent) in the first 12 minutes to storm to a 36-23 lead.

    The Magic made a charge to get back into the game behind the play of reserve point guard Ish Smith, but the Hawks were still shooting better than 60.7 percent from the floor. By the time the score was 55-39, the Hawks had made 62 percent of their shots. Atlanta’s 62 points in the first half were the most allowed by the Magic this season, bettering the 60 points that Milwaukee scored in the first half on March 3.

    ``I was really upset, especially with our starters because they didn’t bring anything to that game,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``We didn’t run back, we didn’t get matched up. They had too many easy shots. There was no excuse for what happened in the first quarter.’’

    And things just got worse in the third quarter when the Hawks squashed a Magic rally with a crushing 15-2 run. Jannero Pargo, who made his first five 3-pointers, hit three threes during the third-quarter spurt.

  • Ryan Anderson talked before the game on Friday about the Magic needing to not press too much trying to replace Howard, but the 6-foot-10 power forward struggled mightily with his shot in the first half.

    Anderson missed all seven of his field goal attempts, five of the misfires coming from the 3-point line from the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made and attempted. And Anderson’s frustration level hit the boiling point when he missed on a point-blank look only to get the rebound and get hammered on the play.

    Anderson was pulled from the game by the end of the third quarter and he finished two of 12 for six points. He missed all eight of his 3-point shots.

    MAGIC MOVES

  • Van Gundy went into this season trying to curb his arguing with the officials, and he had done a great job of that by not getting a technical foul all season. But that streak ended just before halftime on Friday when he argued with referee David Guthrie.

    And Van Gundy seemed to have a strong case for arguing. Guthrie whistled Von Wafer for an offensive foul for jumping into an Atlanta defender on a jump shot. The only problem is that there was little to no contact on the play, yet there was still an offensive foul called.

  • The hits just keep on coming for a Magic team that can’t afford any more injuries. Reserve small forward Quentin Richardson took an accidental elbow from Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia across his eye and nose in the second quarter and went down in pain. Richardson did not return in the second half.

  • Former Magic superstar Tracy McGrady hasn’t been happy with his playing time in Atlanta this season, but he got plenty of action in the second half of Friday’s blowout loss.

    McGrady hurt the Magic early in the game with his ability to score from the post and find cutters with passes. He finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists.

  • In a season full of bizarre moments, Friday night produced yet another downright wacky moment. The Magic were whistled for a technical foul with 5:27 to play for not having a timeout remaining when the game went under the 6 minute mark in the final period.

    Now fully aware that the Magic will likely be without Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures) for the rest of the regular season, Van Gundy said the Magic have to find some defensive resolve if they are going to lock up a playoff spot.

    ``We’ve played five games without Dwight and four of them we’ve given up over 50 percent (field goal percentage),’’ Van Gundy said. ``That can happen once or twice, but when it happens four times in five games you’re not putting anything in the game defensively.

    ``We’ve got guys right now that when they are struggling to score everything else goes out the window for them,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``It’s got to be just the opposite and we’ve got to take a more defensive mindset toward games.’’


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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