Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Sixers (4/16/12)
By John Denton
April 16, 2012
ORLANDO – Stan Van Gundy is usually the type of perfectionist coach who could find flaws in a Picasso painting. But late Monday night, after his undermanned Orlando Magic squad penned a surprising masterpiece, the head coach was downright giddy and beaming with pride.
``That was just a great, great team effort. We want to get guys back and get guys healthy, but it’s not about one or two guys. It’s about a team and that’s what we’ve been the last two nights,’’ Van Gundy bragged following Orlando’s 113-100 pasting of the Philadelphia 76ers. ``If you’re a Magic fan and didn’t enjoy tonight, then I don’t understand it. Our guys gave everything that they had.’’
And that showed up all over the box score as a suddenly surging Magic (36-25) team that was playing without Dwight Howard (herniated disc), Hedo Turkoglu (facial fractures) and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis (sprained knee) got contributions from everyone who played. The Magic got double-double performances from three players – Ryan Anderson (26 points and 16 rebounds), Jameer Nelson (16 points and 13 assists) and Earl Clark (a career-best 11 rebounds and a career-tying 14 points) – for the first time in three seasons.
And it didn’t stop there. Shooting guards Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick combined for 35 points and four 3-pointers. Twelve-year veteran Quentin Richardson chipped in 13 points, three rebounds and two steals, while second-year center Daniel Orton added six points and six rebounds in his first-ever NBA start. Orlando shot 53.3 percent from the floor and pounded Philadelphia (31-29) on the boards, 46-30.
``I’m so proud. This is one of the best victories that I’ve been a part of in a long while,’’ Quentin Richardson said. ``With the team in the situation that we’re in with guys down (injured) and missing, it’s amazing. Just when we think it can’t get any worse and we lose Glen (on Sunday). But it’s just about us pulling together, grinding it out and playing hard together.’’
The victory pulled the Magic into a three-way tie with Boston (36-25) and Atlanta (36-25) for the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds. Orlando also moved 4 ½ games ahead of New York and Philadelphia with five games to play, meaning it will likely fall no lower than sixth in the playoff seedings.
``This is the way that we can win games and this is what makes us so hard to guard,’’ said Anderson, who gashed the Sixers with eight offensive rebounds. ``We’re not a big team, but we’re getting those energy points and crash the boards like we did tonight. We had guys focused on what they could control instead of hunting shots. We moved the ball and played great offense because we were so unselfish.’’
Here is a look at some of the key moments from Monday night’s game at the Amway Center:
- Philadelphia coach Doug Collins made a roster move to try and keep Anderson, the NBA’s leader in 3-point shooting, from beating the Sixers from afar by starting agile forward Thaddeus Young at power forward.
While Young did a solid job of running Anderson off the line and allowing him just two 3-pointers, he got crushed inside by the Magic power forward. Anderson, the NBA’s leading candidate to win the Most Improved Player award, made 11 of 16 shots, grabbed eight boards on each end of the floor and had tip-in buckets three times. His eight offensive rebounds were as many total boards as any Philadelphia player had in the game (Andre Iguodala had eight).
Said Anderson: ``We played as a team and we played with heart. This is one of the best defensive teams in the NBA (in Philadelphia) and we moved the ball. It’s not like we were making a ton of crazy, difficult shots. We just had a lot of energy, moved the ball and made it difficult for them to guard us.’’
- Stuck in simultaneous shooting slumps as recently as a week ago, Redick and Richardson once again carried the Magic offense with their hot shooting throughout Monday’s game.
Richardson had 12 points in the first half, while Redick scored 11 in the first 24 minutes. The two shooting guards played well off one another, setting the other up for open shots with drive-and-kick plays. Together, they combined to make nine of 16 shots in the first half.
Richardson finished with 17 points by making six of 10 shots and two of three 3-pointers, while Redick had 18 points on eight of 16 shooting and two of four 3-point shooting.
``With all of the guys we had out we could have felt sorry for ourselves and lost by 20 at home, but we played really hard and stuck together as a team,’’ Richardson said.
- This one makes little to no sense at all – two of the Magic’s best first halves of the season have come recently without Howard and Turkoglu, arguably the team’s most skilled offensive players.
The Magic scored a season-best 64 points in the first half last week in a home victory against the Detroit Pistons. And the Magic were almost as efficient on Monday night against the Sixers, scoring 61 points, while shooting 52.1 percent from the floor. Orlando made six 3-pointers and hit all five of its free throws in the first half. Also, three players – Anderson, Jason Richardson and Redick – scored in double-figures in the first half to keep the Philadelphia defense completely off balance.
Their play allowed the Magic to grab a 61-55 lead at the intermission. Turkoglu watched the game from the bench, while Howard was not in attendance as he rested and rehabilitated the herniated disc in his back.
``We’re really missing Dwight because he’s such a big part of our team, but the ball is definitely moving,’’ said Nelson, who had 14 points and seven assists in the second half alone. ``We’re running more pick-and-rolls because we have nobody to post up. But everybody who we’re playing has stepped up and is contributing.’’
- Clark is clearly benefitting from the added playing time that the injuries have provided and it shows in his numbers and the sudden calmness in his game. He made seven of 14 shots, none bigger than the 15-foot shot he buried with 4:34 to play after Philly had clawed to within 99-91.
``Knowing that I’m going to play it’s not such a guessing game. I’m staying focused and staying ready,’’ Clark said. ``Guys are down injured right now and I’m trying to make the most of my chance and have fun out there.
``A lot of people have been counting us out after so many people got hurt,’’ Clark continued, ``but tonight we showed the world that we can beat anybody.’’
- Midway through the third quarter, Orlando had made 34 of its first 60 shots (56.7 percent) and nine of 12 shots in the first six minutes after halftime. The problem, however, was that it led just 80-73 because of the inability to get many consecutive stops defensively. Philadelphia hit 29 of its first 54 shots (53.7 percent).
- His surgically repaired back finally feeling better, Quentin Richardson gave the Magic a tremendous lift off the bench Monday night.
Richardson scored the Magic’s first seven points of the second quarter and throughout the game he twice had steals that he converted into dunks. Richardson finished with 13 points, three rebounds and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes.
- When the night was complete, Van Gundy said he was as satisfied with Monday’s win as any the Magic have had all season. For Orlando to thump a rested Philadelphia team without the services of Howard, Turkoglu and Davis and get contributions up and down the roster, the coach was downright delighted.
``When you have purity and you’re going out to play hard and play together and trying to win, energy is a lot easier than when it becomes about individual things,’’ Van Gundy said. ``They’ve put all of that aside and guys are doing whatever it takes. There’s not selfishness and no agendas. Everybody is just playing and it’s great.’’
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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