Denton's Dish: Magic at Jazz (4/21/12)
By John Denton
April 21, 2012
Despite being badly undermanned, the Orlando Magic played one of their most spirited games in recent memory on Saturday night to push the Utah Jazz to the limit. But when an overtime period was needed, the Magic simply ran out of gas and suffered a frustrating loss.
The Magic, playing without Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark, were unable to close out the game in regulation, and Utah took advantage of Orlando’s short-handed roster in the extra period and won 117-107 at Energy Solutions Arena.
Orlando (36-27) got 23 points and 11 assists from Jameer Nelson, but the 6-foot point guard had his shot blocked by Devin Harris as time expired in regulation. Utah’s Al Jefferson had tied the game up with a hook shot with 21.4 seconds remaining. In the extra period, Utah (34-30) made two of its four 3-pointers to pull away for the victory.
Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson each made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points for the Magic, who close out their two-game road trip Sunday night in Denver. Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis had 17 points and 13 rebounds, while J.J. Redick chipped in 15 points.
The Magic were playing their seventh consecutive game without Howard, who had season-ending back surgery on Friday. And for a sixth time in that stretch of games, an opponent shot better than 50 percent from the floor. Utah hit 53.4 percent of its shots and got 21 points from Jefferson and Harris.
``The effort was fine and we can keep talking about how we hung in there and all of that, but we’re not going to win playing the defense the way that we are. We’re just easy to score on. We’ll have to analyze it, but we can’t guard anybody.’’
The Magic missed out on a chance to lock up the sixth seed for the playoffs, which begin next Saturday. Orlando remains three games up on the New York Knicks with three games to play. The Magic’s magic number to cinch the No. 6 seed is one, meaning one victory or one New York loss will lock Orlando into No. 6.
Here is a look at some of the key moments from Saturday’s game from Utah:
- Nelson was dazzling most of the night, attacking off the pick-and-roll plays and regularly getting into the lane. But in part because he played big minutes, he failed to attack on the final play of regulation and his deep 3-point shot was blocked by Harris.
Van Gundy questioned the decision-making on the play, and questioned his own design of the final play.
``I didn’t want to bring Glen up in a high pick-and-roll because I thought there was a chance they’d trap it. I wanted to get him some room to go one-on-one with Devin Harris,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Hindsight being 20/20 I shouldn’t have run what I ran and I should have brought Glen up. I’ll take the blame for that. And the second thing is that Ryan (Anderson) was wide-open on the play. Jameer for whatever reason didn’t try to attack him, fatigue or whatever, and he was there for the easy block. But I’m not happy with the play that I called. I should have given him something he was more comfortable with.’’
- The Magic got off to a tremendous start Saturday night. They made eight of their first 14 shots to take a 19-14 lead. And when Nelson easily got to the rim for a layup late in the period the Magic were up 26-19.
Richardson helped pave the way for the strong start with some torrid shooting. He scored Orlando’s first nine points by making four straight shots. And by the time that he made his sixth consecutive shot, Orlando had a shocking 36-23 lead late in the first quarter.
The Magic made four 3-pointers and hit 65 percent of their shots in the first 12 minutes.
``Really, it comes down to defense. We were playing great defense to start the game,’’ Anderson said. ``We had to eliminate the easy buckets.’’
- After falling behind 67-62 in the third quarter, the Magic put forth one of their finest stretches of the season to retake the lead.
Orlando scored 13 straight points to from five points down to eight points ahead. Nelson (two) and Redick got the run started with three straight 3-pointers, and then both players converted tough baskets to but the Magic up 75-67.
And when Anderson made Orlando’s 12th 3-pointer of the night and fifth one of the third quarter, it led 81-69. Utah clawed back within 83-81 by the end of the quarter, but the stellar run still put the Magic in position to grab the win in the fourth period.
- As has been the case far too often of late, the Magic squandered a strong start in the first quarter with a poor second quarter. Orlando was repeatedly gashed inside by Al Jefferson (11 first-half points), Paul Millsap (10 first-half points) and Derrick Favors (eight first-half points) to blow their big lead.
A 10-0 Utah lead early in the period cut into the Magic’s lead and Utah actually came all the way back from 14 point down to grab a 53-52 lead on a dunk by Favors. The score was tied at 55 at halftime.
- The schedule-makers did the Magic no favors with this Utah-Denver back-to-back set of games. Teams playing on a second night of back-to-backs in the thin air of Denver have had a miserable time trying to win in the Mile High City.
In 2011-12, Denver is 7-2 at home when facing a team that played a game the day before. Since 2009-10, Denver is 36-6 at home when facing a team that played a game the day before. And since 2008-09, Denver is 50-9 at home when facing a team that played a game the day before.
- Howard’s two-hour back procedure went as planned on Friday in Marina Del Ray, Calif. Orlando President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith traveled to California for the surgery and spent some time with his nervous all-star center before and after the surgery to repair a herniated disc.
``The procedure went well. Dr. Watkins went in and took out of the disc that was malfunctioning and put him back together,’’ Smith said. ``He was his normal silly self going into the surgery and he was his normal silly self coming out of surgery. And (Saturday) morning he was even more silly, so it was good to see him and his spirits were good.’’
Smith said he was confident that Howard will make a full recovery and will be ready to go for the start of next season.
``He can’t do anything for three weeks. Then, he’ll start some very basic regimented rehab in Week 4,’’ Smith said. ``The recovery should be fine. It’s a 3-to-4 month process before he can get back to playing basketball, but he should be fine.’’
- A day after Van Gundy sounded pessimistic about Turkoglu’s chances of returning for the playoffs, Smith seemed to think that the Magic could get their small forward back by next week.
Turkoglu broke three bones under his right eye three weeks ago when he was elbowed by New York’s Carmelo Antony. He was slow to respond after surgery because of lingering swelling and pain.
But Turkolgu began working in the pool on Friday and joined the team for the two-game roadtrip to Utah and Denver. Turkoglu went through some conditioning drills and light shooting on Saturday and the hope is that he can go through contact drills by the middle of next week. Then, he should be ready by the start of the playoffs on Saturday or Sunday.
``He’s actually progressing quite well. We’ll start him with contact at the end of the week. But he’s progressing quite well,’’ Smith said. ``He’ll have to get fitted for a mask. He’s done that once before and he’s OK. I do expect to get him back (for the playoffs).’’
- The Magic didn’t have blossoming power forward Earl Clark Saturday night because of a swollen knee. Clark also missed Friday’s practice and because the knee was no better on Saturday he was held out of the game. It’s unlikely that he will play Sunday in Denver and will be given the two days off to get healthy before the final two regular-season games.
Rookie forward Justin Harper played some spot duty in Clark’s absence.
- Van Gundy said if the Magic are going to have a chance of winning in the playoffs the defensive hustle and grit has to change dramatically in the coming week. Saturday’s game was another example of the Magic getting picked apart defensively, and Van Gundy has grown frustrated by the lack of improvement on the defensive end of the floor.
``We cannot guard, we just can’t. I don’t think it’s that our guys aren’t trying and I don’t really know what it is, but we cannot guard anyone,’’ he said. ``Our lack of depth was a huge factor in the game. Those guys ran out of gas at the end. But it’s our defense that is disturbing to say the least.’’
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 email@example.com
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