Denton's Dish: Magic at Nuggets
By John Denton
April 22, 2012
Forced to play once again without their three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard – and also not having Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson – the Orlando Magic were downright defenseless in Denver.
Getting stops continued to be a major problem for the Magic, and Sunday night might have been a low point considering how Denver big men JaVale McGee and Kenneth Faried repeatedly dunked the ball in the second half at the Pepsi Center.
Injuries to Howard, Turkoglu and Nelson and a difficult back-to-back finally caught up to the Magic Sunday night as a game that was tied at the half devolved into an unsightly 101-74 Orlando loss to the playoff-bound Nuggets.
``I don’t think it had anything to do with running out of gas,’’ an angry Stan Van Gundy said. ``Four times (McGee) is going to start up for a pick and back-cut for a lob, that’s absurd. We ran out of focus and competitiveness, that’s what we ran out of.’’
For a seventh time in the past 11 games, the Magic (36-28) allowed at least 100 points. Also, an opponent shot 50 percent or better from the floor for a seventh time in the past eight games.
Denver made a whopping 56.4 percent of its shots on Sunday. Many of those Denver baskets came at point-blank range as McGee had eight dunks, while Faried had two more. Denver, which is 16-2 this season against teams from the Eastern Conference, had 64 points in the paint a night after Utah battered Orlando for 62 paint points – the two highest totals of the season against the Magic.
There’s no Howard, who is out the rest of the season after having back surgery. Turkoglu, who had surgery to repair three fractured bones in his face, likely won’t be back any sooner than the start of the playoffs next Saturday. And to make matters worse, the Magic lost Nelson on Sunday night to a badly bruised right calf muscle two minutes into the game.
Forced to play some 18 hours after losing 117-107 in overtime in Utah on Saturday, the Magic totally fell flat in the second half. With the game tied at 44 at the half, Denver outscored Orlando 29-18 in the third period and 28-12 in the fourth quarter.
``We didn’t do our defensive assignments, we didn’t have energy and didn’t do anything with how we’ve been playing the last five or six games,’’ said Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson, who made only four of 13 shots and scored just nine points. ``You can blame it on whatever it was, but we just don’t play like we should have.’’
The Magic, losers of five of the last seven games, missed out on a chance to clinch the No. 6 seed earlier in the day when the New York Knicks (34-20) rallied to beat the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon. Orlando’s magic number remains at one and the hope is that it can lock up the No. 6 seed Wednesday night at home against hapless Charlotte. The Bobcats lost their 20th straight game on Sunday.
``Up until (Sunday’s) game our effort has been great,’’ Richardson said. ``We’ve been moving the ball well, but we have to do some things better defensively. You want the result to be a win in your column, but we had been playing well before this. We’ve got two games left to try and get two wins before we head into the playoffs.’’
Here is a look at some of the key moments from Sunday night’s game at the Pepsi Center in Denver:
Anderson had 24 points, nine rebounds and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. He also had a 3-pointer taken away after officials ruled that the ball left his hands just after the shot clock expired.
A 14-7 run start to the second quarter, keyed by two 3-pointers and a long jumper from Anderson, gave the Magic a somewhat surprising 35-31 lead and forced Denver into a timeout.
Anderson was a beast offensively for the Magic, carrying a group that was missing its three most skilled players. He had 17 points and two 3-pointers in the first half and three times scored off his aggressiveness on the offensive glass.
``They were on a back-to-back, too,’’ said Redick, who scored nine first-half points and had a fat lip from getting accidentally popped in the mouth. ``Our game (on Saturday night) was a little later and the overtime (in Utah) didn’t help, but our group has shown some mental toughness lately.’’
Nelson was accidentally kneed in the right calf by Faried and immediately grabbed at his knee and lower leg. Nelson hobbled to the bench and was replaced by Ish Smith. The initial plan was for Nelson to return to the game, but he was unavailable to do so because of lingering pain and tightness in his calf.
The good news for Nelson is that the Magic will be off on Monday and Tuesday before hosting Charlotte on Wednesday.
Said Richardson: ``It’s deflating to have your starting point guard go down, but it’s basketball. Anyone could get hurt at any given time and the next guy has to step up.’’
``I don’t think anybody was dogging it out there, but we just didn’t do what we were supposed to be doing on the defensive end,’’ said Richardson, referring to four starters playing more than 40 minutes on Saturday and then having to play big minutes again on Sunday because of the numerous injuries. ``In the third quarter and fourth quarter they just kept on throwing lob after lob after lob. Our defense wasn’t rotating and we got down on ourselves. We just can’t be that type of team where adversity hits and we keep on sinking. We have to find a way to fight through it. We might have been a little tired, but that can’t be an excuse.’’
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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