Denton's Dish: Magic at Cavs (4/15/12)
By John Denton
April 15, 2012
On Sunday, the Orlando Magic finally played their way into a bit of good news. The Magic can rest easy knowing that they are in the playoffs – even if they don’t know what players will be available when they get there.
A Magic team that was already playing without starters Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu and then lost Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis to a sprained knee battled through the adversity to beat Cleveland 100-84 to clinch a playoff berth.
Magic captain Jameer Nelson scored 21 points, handed out nine assists and grabbed seven rebounds to help Orlando snap a two-game losing streak and assure itself of a playoff slot for the sixth consecutive season. Jason Richardson added 16 points and four 3-pointers, while J.J. Redick had 13 points and three 3-pointers.
``It means a lot (to clinch the playoff berth) because once you get in the playoffs you have an opportunity to win,’’ Nelson said. ``We have to play hard as we can the rest of the way and do some great things there (in the playoffs). But we still have to close the regular season out right and win these games in front of us.’’
The Magic (35-25) moved into a tie for the fifth seed with Atlanta (35-25) and further distanced themselves from seventh-seeded Philadelphia (31-28) and eighth-seeded New York (31-29). The 76ers play in Orlando at the Amway Center on Monday, and the Magic could take a major step toward locking up at least the No. 6 seed with a victory.
Orlando also got major contributions for seldom-used reserves Daniel Orton (11 points, five steals, four rebounds and three blocked shots) and Earl Clark (13 points). The combination of clinching the playoff berth and getting a big night out of Orton caused the playful Davis to dump a pitcher of water over the second-year center’s head in celebration.
``It was a big win for us and we really needed this one,’’ said Ryan Anderson, who shook off another subpar shooting night (three of 11) and had 13 rebounds and nine points. ``It was a fun win because it was a team win. We have a lot of guys down and a lot of guys banged up and it was good to see the guys who haven’t played much this year step up and play great.’’
The Magic beat Cleveland, who was playing without Rookie of the Year favorite Kyrie Irving and on its third game in as many nights, for a ninth consecutive time over the past three seasons.
``I’m really, really happy for Daniel and Earl, especially Daniel because this is his first big opportunity. He came up big blocking shots and came up defensively. It was a great team effort, Jameer was fabulous and everybody who played contributed to the win. It was a really good win for us.’’
The Magic’s victory didn’t come without a cost, however. Davis, who had filled in so nicely for the injured Howard the past two weeks, sprained his right knee just 7 minutes into the game and needed help getting to the locker room. The likelihood is the Magic won’t have the 6-foot-9, 290-pound Davis on Monday against Philadelphia.
``I don’t have any prognosis on him or any idea of when he’ll be back. He hyper-extended his knee,’’ Van Gundy said. ``My guess would be he probably won’t play tomorrow night. When a guy doesn’t come back in a game it’s usually worse the next day. I’m going to guess that we won’t have him, but maybe we’ll get lucky.’’
The Magic are also hoping to get lucky with Howard, who rejoined the team in Cleveland after flying to Los Angeles on Friday where it was determined that he has a herniated disc in his lower back. Howard received an epidural injection into his back on Sunday and the hope is that after 10 days of rest and rehabilitation he will be close to returning for the playoffs.
Here is a closer look at a few of the key moments from Sunday night’s game:
- Nelson dominated the game by continually making all of the right plays in pick-and-roll sets. Van Gundy said he called one play for Redick and one play for Richardson in the second half and all the rest were for Nelson when the veteran point guard was on the floor.
Nelson had 11 points in the third quarter alone by making all five of his shots. With Howard, Turkoglu and Davis out, Nelson knew that he had to take control of the offense and run the show. He did just that by making eight of 14 shots and two 3-pointers.
``First and foremost I have to lead and get guys into their spots because they are playing different roles. But I also have to play my game,’’ said Nelson, who also took his team-leading 20th charge in the game. ``Our guys did a good job of playing off pick and roles. I wanted to get into the paint and attack. They didn’t have an answer for our pick-and-roll game so we ran a lot of those plays. We didn’t have a post-up game so we had to go pick-and-roll.’’
- Nelson predicted to Orton earlier in the season that there would come a time when he would be looked to to contribute impactful minutes for the Magic. That moment finally came on Sunday night for a player used only in garbage time previously.
Orton had a couple of dunks, a sweeping left-handed hook shot and five free throws on the offensive end. But defensively, he shined with the five steals, four rebounds and three blocked shots in a career-best 29 minutes.
``It just felt good to get a win because we really needed this win,’’ Orton said. ``With playing more confidence comes and you start getting comfortable out there and you figure out what to do.’’
- Magic players hit a couple impressive milestones in the second quarter on Sunday night.
When Nelson drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key it extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one three to 30 games. That’s the longest active streak in the NBA after Orlando’s Ryan Anderson (34 games) and Kevin Durant (29 games) saw their streaks come to an end in the past few days.
Seconds after Nelson’s 3-pointer, Magic small forward Quentin Richardson converted a tough driving layup in traffic. The basket put Richardson over the 8,000-point mark in his 12-year NBA career. Sunday was Richardson’s 777th career game.
- A Magic team that can’t afford any more injuries suffered another blow late in the first quarter when Davis went down while grabbing at his right knee.
Starting in place of the injured Howard once again, Davis lasted just seven minutes before going down. He was going up for a follow-up layup attempt but came down awkwardly on the knee and immediately went to the floor.
Davis needed help to limp to the locker room and he did not return to the game. The official diagnosis is a sprained knee for Davis, who will be evaluated Monday morning back in Orlando.
If Davis can’t play Monday against the Sixers, Orton will start. Power forwards Ryan Anderson and Earl Clark could have to play some center as well. Orton hasn’t started a game since he was in high school in Oklahoma.
- Orton, who is finally getting a chance to show why he was a first-round pick two seasons ago, had a stellar stretch early in the fourth quarter.
He converted a left-handed hook off a tip-pass from Anderson, blocked a shot and seconds later started a fastbreak with a long outlet pass.
``I’m always out there trying to get blocks, but the five steals that surprised me,’’ Orton admitted. ``I was just trying to play good defense. That’s one of the things that Stan asked me to do. … It’s a great feeling to know that you have the team behind you. You enjoy moments like this when guys are proud for you. It feels good.’’
- Cavaliers’ fans gave a warm ovation for Magic shooting coach Mark Price late in the second quarter. Price played nine of his 12 NBA seasons in Cleveland from 1986-95. His No. 20 was retired in Cleveland after he finished 19th in NBA history in 3-point percentage. During his time with the Cavs, he was one was of only five players in league history to finish a season shooting at least 50 percent from the floor, 40 percent from the 3-point line and 90 percent from the free throw line. In addition to being the NBA’s all-time leader in free throw percentage (90.4 percent), he ranks first in Cleveland history in assists and 3-pointers made.
- Who could have ever guessed that the Magic would have been in a critical situation needing a victory and had Orton, Earl Clark, Quentin Richardson, Von Wafer and Chris Duhon on the floor at the same time?
But in the end, the Magic bonded together, got stellar play from mainstays such as Nelson, Jason Richardson and Redick, and contributions from the likes of Orton and Clark, and earned a playoff berth.
``We all gave 100 percent effort. We figured we’d make some mistakes playing with guys who haven’t played a lot during the year, but they played hard,’’ Nelson said. ``When (the Cavs) made their run we didn’t panic and we just kept playing hard. It paid off for us and we got a big win.’’
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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