Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Rockets (12/26/11)



By John Denton
December 26, 2011


ORLANDO – Stan Van Gundy furrowed his brow and wondered aloud why Orlando Magic small forward Hedo Turkoglu played with much more energy and effectiveness on Monday night than he did a night earlier in Oklahoma City.

Just a thought, but it might have had something to do with Turkoglu having to check lightly regarded Houston forward Chase Budinger instead of superstar Kevin Durant. Whatever the reason, the Magic veteran looked like the Turkoglu of old on Monday as opposed to an old Turkoglu a night earlier.

Turkoglu scored 19 points in the second half and 13 in the fourth quarter alone of a solid 23-point effort as the Magic recovered from an ugly loss with a 104-95 defeat of Houston in the home-opener at the Amway Center.

Turkoglu and J.J. Redick combined for 21 of Orlando’s 27 points in the fourth quarter for the victory. Turkoglu made 10 of 14 shots and three of four 3-pointers, while Redick hit eight of 12 shots and three more 3-pointers for 20 points.

Van Gundy has talked extensively with Turkoglu about playing more like the dynamic point-forward who led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals and less like the one who shied away from situations last spring when the Magic lost in the first round of the playoffs.

``Part of it is an energy thing and part of it is a mentality thing. You are a great player and you need to make plays,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I thought he did that (Monday). We need him to do that on a consistent basis.’’

The Magic (1-1) improved to 16-7 all-time in home openers, having won 11 of the last 14. They also bounced back from the 97-89 loss in Oklahoma City, a game that the Magic trailed by as much as 22 points as Durant poured in 30 against Turkoglu.

``We had to be aggressive and not just run to the 3-point line and just shoot threes. When guys got into a good rhythm it was they got some easy buckets,’’ said Magic star Dwight Howard, who added 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists – two of which set up fourth-quarter shots. ``When we got those (easy shots) it just opened things up and gave guys more confidence. It was a great overall win.’’

Howard, who has been the center of attention in the NBA since the lockout ended because of his uncertainty in Orlando, was cheered by the sellout crowd of 18,846. Howard addressed the crowd before the game, telling them ``we’re going to have a great season.’’

Finished with the first of 19 back-to-backs, the Magic (1-1) will be off on Tuesday. They return to practice on Wednesday to prepare for the Thursday night home game against Deron Williams and the New Jersey Nets. The Nets are one of the three teams rumored to be in the hunt for Howard in a trade, but the Magic have resisted making such a transaction while trying to retain their franchise center.

Here’s a closer look at some of the key plays in the game:

    MAGIC MOMENTS

  • Unlike a night earlier when they struggled offensively because of poor ball and player movement, the Magic seemingly made all the right plays down the stretch with the game on the line.

    Redick hit two clutch 3-pointers to keep the Rockets at bay each time they got close. Meanwhile, Turkoglu played with great bounce in his step in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 points and setting up two 3-pointers with drive-and-dish assists early in the fourth quarter. His step-back 3-pointer with 90 seconds to play put Orlando up 101-90 and sealed the victory.

    A night after making just three of 10 shots in OKC, Turkoglu took the advice of his teammates and sought out shots on Monday.

    ``My teammates and coaches kept telling me to be aggressive and look for my shot first and then my teammates,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I just had to be aggressive all night.’’

  • Redick benefitted the most from the Magic’s better ball movement, getting several open looks while in rhythm. He made three of five shots in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers. And his baseline shot from Howard helped to secure the Magic’s first victory of the season.

    ``Across the board for our team, we just played better offensively,’’ Redick said. ``There was more ball movement, more energy. And when that happens it’s a little easier to get into a rhythm. Basically speaking, when you’re in a rhythm you shoot the ball better.’’

  • Howard was active and unstoppable early in the game, battering the smallish Rockets inside for 16 points in the first half.

    Clearly motivated by a poor performance in Sunday’s loss in Oklahoma City, Howard was in attack mode from the jump. And unlike on Sunday when attempted several face-up jump shots, Howard trained his focus on battling in the low post Monday night.

    He got Jordan Hill in early foul trouble and scored on a variety of hook shots and lobs over Samuel Dalembert, whose signing by the Rockets wasn’t finalized until Sunday night. Howard made eight of 11 shots in the first half for 16 points in the early going.

    Said Howard: ``(Sunday) night was out of my head as soon as the game ended. None of us played well in that game. I’m going to have great games and bad games and that was a bad one. I was just trying to stay focused, keep my head up and be ready for this game (against Houston).’’

    MAGIC MYSTERY

  • Including his technical foul in the preseason against Miami, Redick picked up his second ``T’’ for an outburst. The funny thing, however, was that Redick was more frustrated at the Magic defense than he was at the call by referee Kane Fitzgerald.

    Redick hit the floor after trying to draw a charge on Houston point guard Kyle Lowry, but was whistled for a blocking foul. Upset that Lowry got to the rim, Redick slammed the basketball to the floor and it went in the direction of Fitzgerald. Redick said his sheepish facial expression let the official know that he wasn’t throwing the ball, and he apologized profusely seconds after the play.

    ``I think the ref saw my face when I did it. I looked as innocent as a dove,’’ Redick said. ``I slammed the ball. But I was slamming it out of frustration on our team and it had nothing to do with the referee. I think they gave me a break and sensed (the mistake).’’

    MAGIC MOVES

  • Fans and message board posters have been plenty critical of reserve point guard Chris Duhon, but the heady veteran played well in the third quarter in relief of starter Jameer Nelson Monday night.

    Duhon showed an unwillingness to shoot last season, and he was chided by Van Gundy early in the game for passing up a 3-pointer before stepping out of bounds. But in the third period Duhon lifted the Magic with a 3-pointer, a dazzling drive for a layup and two assists.

    He finished with five points and two assists in 17 minutes.

    ``With the situation that we’re in with the schedule guys are going to need more rest and I’m going to have to play more minutes to keep them fresh,’’ Duhon said. ``I want to have coach’s confidence that there won’t be a slack off when I come into the game.’’

  • The play involving Nelson and J.J. Redick just before the half was a thing of beauty and it gave the Magic some momentum going into the locker room.

    Nelson drove down the lane, but circled out when he saw nothing promising. With all eyes on Nelson, Redick cut hard to the rim and Nelson slipped a pass between two defenders. Redick used the rim as a protected and flipped in a reverse layup with four-tenths of a second left to put the Magic up 53-50 at the intermission.

  • Houston standout Kevin Martin suffered through a dismal night, making just one of 10 shots and missing all six of his 3-point attempts. Martin was so bad that new Houston coach Kevin McHale pulled him in favor of former Magic player Courtney Lee, who had 15 points, two 3-pointers and three rebounds off the bench.

  • Sarcastic quote of the night from Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, who had 13 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes: ``It’s huge to be on a winning streak of one. We have a lot to build on.’’


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

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