Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Heat (12/21/11)



By John Denton
December 21, 2011


ORLANDO – In one of those classic glass half full or half empty questions, should the Orlando Magic be more concerned about their shaky play in the first half Wednesday or pleased with their stirring second-half rally against the rival Miami Heat?

Considering the lopsided nature of Sunday’s loss and Wednesday’s poor start, the Magic were more than happy to finish off the preseason with a solid second-half rally that allowed them to beat the Heat 104-100 at a sold-out Amway Center.

Following a dreadful first half which the Magic took more than 5 minutes to score their first points and once trailed by as much as 23 points, they got their act together in a torrid third quarter and had fun in an emotional come-from-behind victory.

There was the fiery Quentin Richardson launching a shoulder into the chest of LeBron James to draw a technical foul and put a charge into Orlando. And then there was Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis high-fiving fans sitting courtside and sliding along the floor after hitting an off-balance hook shot that finally put the Magic into the lead.

``That was a reaction because I always watch soccer,’’ Davis said before breaking into a big smile. ``Also I pass by SeaWorld, you know, and I was like Shamu sliding up there.’’

The Magic (1-1) could afford to crack jokes after they made 13 of 15 shots in the third quarter and hit eight of 12 3-pointers after starting the game with 13 straight misses from beyond the arc. Just three days removed from an ugly 118-85 loss in Miami, Orlando outscored the Heat (1-1) by 18 points in the second half.

``Like I told the guys at halftime, `We’re going to come out and have a great second half,’’’ said Magic superstar Dwight Howard, who had 15 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes. ``No matter what happened in the first half, we got a lot of good shots and we just had to get into the rhythm of playing. Our energy level was up, we ran more and we saw some good things out of our rookies and we played great defense. Everybody was playing hard and that way the big difference.’’

James, who remained in the game until the 4 minute mark of the fourth quarter, had 27 points on nine of 16 shooting. After the game, James said that he and Howard have discussed the Magic star’s trade request and his looming free agency. James knows a thing or two about that, having bolted Cleveland for Miami prior to last season.

Said James: ``From me, I just wish him the best. At the end of the day I just want him to be happy whether it is here in Orlando or elsewhere. I know that it is a difficult situation that he’s going through and we will see what happens.’’

Added Howard: ``About the only person who has been through what I’ve had to go through – well, on a bad note – has been LeBron. We’ve had a couple of conversations. Just like he said, we play basketball and we understand the situation and we always have to do what’s best for you. As of right now, I’m with the Orlando Magic and I’m going to go out every night, play as hard as I can, smile, have fun and get the crowd into it so that we can win games. Nothing else matters right now but going out there with the Magic and getting the job done.’’

As bad as the Magic were in the first half (33 percent shooting and 13 turnovers), they were as equally good in a spirited third quarter. The Magic shockingly made 13 of 15 shots in the period, allowing them to come all the way back from 23 down at one point to take a two-point lead.

Davis finished with 18 points, Jason Richardson had 15 points and three 3-pointers and point guard Jameer Nelson scored 14 points and handed out 10 assists.

Here is a look at some of the key moments in the game:

MAGIC MOMENT

The game turned in the third quarter because of the energy, emotion and effectiveness of Davis. The 6-foot-9, 289-pounder was unstoppable on the low block and while facing the basket, making all five of his shots in the third quarter. He had 13 points and four rebounds in the third period alone, carrying the Magic offensively for long stretches.

``I had to show everybody what I could do because it’s a question mark of who is this guy?’’ Davis said. ``We know what he did with the Celtics, but Orlando gave him some money and he’s a fat guy and he’s out of shape. But I’m the Glen Davis that I’ve always imagined that I could be – a pro who will come out bring the intensity every day to help this team win.’’

Davis’ biggest basket – one that gave the Magic their first lead at 72-70 – produced his ``Shamu-like’’ slide across the floor. Davis was hit by Miami’s Udonis Haslem, he threw in an off-balanced hook and promptly went sliding across the floor. After rising to his feet, he tugged at his jersey to emphasize the ``MAGIC’’ lettering across the front.

Said Davis: ``I’m an emotional guy and I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I just love the game and I love to win. … I’m going to go out every day and show the fans what I can truly do. Now, my heart truly bleeds (Magic) blue.’’

MAGIC MYSTERY

Hoping to get off to a better start following Sunday’s blowout, the first quarter could not have gone much worse for the Magic.

Orlando missed its first 12 shots, fell behind 12-0 and didn’t score for the first 5 minutes, 40 seconds of the game.

The crowd sarcastically cheered when Howard scored on a reserve layup to break the ice for the Magic. Orlando was a mess offensively and by the time it was 23-8, the Magic had already turned the ball over five times.

``I heard somebody yell that we looked like a high school team when we were down 12-zip, but I was just trying to tell the fans that it’s going to be all right,’’ Howard joked.

Things didn’t get much better in an unsightly first half. At one point, Orlando had made just five of 24 shots, missed all 10 of its 3-point shots and turned the ball over 10 times.

And the Magic trailed 56-42 at the half after making just 14 of 42 shots and only two of 18 shots from beyond the 3-point stripe. The Magic, who never led in the first half, turned the ball over 13 times in the first 24 minutes, leading to 18 Miami points.

MAGIC MOVES

  • Tempers flared near the end of the third quarter when James and Quentin Richardson had a couple of violent collisions. After James made a jumper and glared at the Magic bench he accidentally ran into Richardson at midcourt. James then slammed into Richardson, prompting the Magic small forward to launch a shoulder into James.

    Richardson was whistled for a foul and a technical foul on the play, while James wasn’t penalized.

    ``Basketball is back and we’re back playing. It was just the heat of the game,’’ Richardson said. ``It was getting a little physical and getting a little chippy. That’s just the way I’ve played my whole life. Somebody pushes you, you push back and you don’t back down.

    ``To me it’s not about being edgy or starting things, but you just put the message out there that certain things aren’t going to happen,’’ Richardson continued. ``You aren’t going to do certain things the way you do them everywhere else and not get a free pass because you are `The King’ or whatever. You put your pants on one leg at a time the same way that I do. I wanted to make it tough for him. LeBron still had 27 points and is a great player, but my job was to make things as tough as possible physically.’’

  • Nelson, a Magic co-captain with Howard, reported to training camp several pounds lighter and in great shape, but he had to be wondering what was going on with his jump shot early on Wednesday.

    Nelson missed all 10 of his shots in Sunday’s lopsided loss and started Wednesday’s game by missing six of his first seven attempts. But Nelson’s intensity and effectiveness picked up in the third quarter when he made all three of his shots, drilled two free throws and handed out six assists.

  • Orlando’s two rookies had a nice moment in the fourth quarter when DeAndre Liggins beat Wade off the dribble, drove into the lane and found Justin Harper for a 3-pointer from the corner. Liggins, known primarily as a defender at the University of Kentucky, has shown a propensity as a stellar drive-and-dish player so far in training camp for the Magic.


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 jd41898@aol.com

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.








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