Denton's Dish: Magic at Heat (12/18/11)
By John Denton
December 18, 2011
MIAMI – With training camp truncated and Sunday’s exhibition game doubling as both the preseason opener and the penultimate scrimmage prior to the start of the regular season, the Orlando Magic knew there could be some downright ugly basketball early this season.
But even by preseason standards, this was an ugly brand of basketball that the Magic haven’t been familiar with in the exhibition season in quite a long time.
The Magic were demolished in an unsightly second half Sunday and left to reassess their progress in this shortened training camp following a 118-85 loss to the rival Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena.
Slogging along and mostly out of sync over the final three quarters, the Magic were outscored 22-0 on fastbreak points and routed 65-39 in the second half of a game where the deficit swelled to as much as 37 points.
``It was disappointing and it was embarrassing, but we have to stick together. I just told the guys that we’re in this together,’’ said Magic star center Dwight Howard, who had only five points and six rebounds in 29 minutes of work. ``It was a tough game for us. (The Heat) guys looked like they had been playing all summer and most of them were together all summer. But we were off for seven months and our guys are still trying to get back into it. But there’s no need for us or Magic fans to stress about the first game. There’s a lot more games to be played and time for us to get better.’’
The Magic entered Sunday night with a staggering 21-game winning streak in the preseason. Orlando was 7-0 in the preseason last year and 8-0 in 2010. Before Sunday, the Magic last lost a preseason game on Oct. 6, 2008 at Atlanta. In four-plus seasons under head coach Stan Van Gundy, the Magic are 27-3 in the preseason.
``We won 21 straight preseason games, but we never won a championship,’’ joked Magic guard J.J. Redick, who tied for the team lead in scoring with 22 points along with Ryan Anderson. ``It’s never good for you to get your butt kicked and we have a ways to go. But the games are going to start quickly. We play six games in nine nights right away, so we need to get better quickly.’’
This was an opening game to forget on several accounts. Pont guard Jameer Nelson missed all 10 of his shots, while Glen ``Big Baby’’ hit just two of eight tries in his first game in a Magic uniform. Hedo Turkoglu injured his hip on a hard fall, and the Magic looked as if they were running in mud most of the night as the Heat outraced them for one layup after another.
``When you have a team outscore you 22-0 on fastbreak points they’re clearly playing at a pace and an energy level higher than you. We simply could not keep up,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``And once we got behind I didn’t think we fought it out to very well. We didn’t compete very well and the defense was bad.’’
LeBron James scored 19 points on nine of 14 shooting, while Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh scored 14 points apiece. Rookie Terrel Harris chipped in 16 for a Miami team that shot 58.7 percent. The two teams play again Wednesday night at Orlando’s Amway Center in the final preseason game before the Christmas Day openers.
``Quite honestly I think this might be good for us and hopefully it’s a wakeup call for us that we can’t go into practice and keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them. It’s not going to be good enough,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We have to get better. This one makes it pretty obvious that there are some things that we have to get a lot better doing.’’
Here’s a closer look at a few of the critical moments in the game:
- There was certainly nothing magical about the third quarter when the Heat dominated the game and turned it into a laugher. Miami outscored the Magic 29-15 after intermission, pushing a seven-point halftime edge to 21 by the start of the fourth quarter.
``It’s been a while since we’ve played and there are still plenty of things we need to work on,’’ said Anderson, who made seven of 15 shots and four of nine 3-pointers. ``Guys on our team are still learning one another and you hope that we’ll catch on quickly.’’
James and Wade each had three baskets in the third period, and each of them got behind the Magic defense for run-out layups in transition. The Heat did as they pleased, hitting 11 of 18 shots in the third period. Meanwhile, the Magic missed 13 of 18 tries and turned the ball over four times. The players who started the second half had just one basket in the third period.
Point guard Mario Chalmers added insult to injury late in the third quarter when he swatted a Jason Richardson shot, scooped up the loose ball and pushed it ahead of the Magic defense. Instead of simply taking the layup, Chalmers threw a pass off the backboard to James for a thunderous dunk. Added Magic guard Quentin Richardson: ``I don’t like to lose period, especially like that. That was ridiculous.’’
- Howard expressed a bit of frustration in the third quarter when he angrily pulled the arm of massive Miami center Dexter Pittman. Howard was upset when the 285-pound Pittman shoved him in the back and across the lane as a rebound was coming off the boards.
Pittman stared at Howard after the play, and the Magic center exchanged heated words with Miami’s Chris Bosh. Howard and Pittman were whistled for a double foul on the bizarre play.
Howard made just two of nine shots, while working mostly on his turnaround jump shot instead of his power moves to the hoop. After the game, he preached togetherness and patience to his team.
``I told the guys that there is no need to panic or get frustrated. That’s the first game that we’ve played in seven months,’’ Howard said. ``We’re going to be rusty and miss shots, but we have to stick together. So it’s not like we need to stress ourselves and be frustrated about this game.’’
- Magic Vice President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said the overlooked piece of the sign-and-trade deal between Orlando and Boston has been the addition of guard Von Wafer. Much of the focus of the deal has been on power forwards Glen Davis and Brandon Bass, but Wafer has a shot at contributing to the Magic because of his ability to put up points in bunches.
Wafer hit training camp in excellent shape, which he partially credits to playing in Italy during the NBA Lockout. And Van Gundy has lauded Wafer for his willingness to make the right play when he beats defenders off the dribble.
``It’s not always about ability as much as it is knowing your role and being willing to stay within that role,’’ Smith said. ``Von knows the situation, and I think he can help us out.’’ Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick will see most of the minutes at shooting guard, but Wafer could see time when Richardson plays some small forward in certain lineups.
- Hedo Turkoglu fell hard to the floor in the second quarter when he was undercut on a drive to the hoop. Turkoglu remained face-down on the floor for several minutes before finally moving. He suffered a left hip contusion and the severity was not immediately known.
Turkoglu did not return to the action and remained in the locker room after halftime. He had five points, three rebounds and three assists in 13 minutes of action.
- Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the Magic pulling off blockbuster trades with the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards.
Last Dec. 18, the Magic got Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark in exchange Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. On the same day, the Magic also traded Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas. Arenas has since been waived via the NBA’s Amnesty Clause and is rumored to be interested in signing with the Miami Heat at a reserve point guard.
- Final words from Nelson: ``We’re still learning J-Rich a little and definitely still learning how to play with Big Baby. It’ll come because we have smart guys and a great coaching staff who will put us in the right spots,’’ the point guard said. ``I can only speak for myself, but my wind was fine out there. But I didn’t have my legs and shots were coming up short. But again, it will come.’’
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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