Denton: First Half Review

By John Denton
February 28, 2012

ORLANDO – The City of Orlando and the Magic did a spectacular job hosting the NBA All-Star Game, showcasing both the city and the league’s best arena to the rest of the basketball world without even the slightest of a hitch.

But now with the All-Star circus gone out of Orlando, there is a hope among the Magic that there will be plenty more electrifying and meaningful big games played at the Amway Center this season.

And if the first half of the regular season is any indication, that will be the case because the Magic showed plenty of flashes of greatness in the first half of the year en route to a solid 22-13 record.

In notching wins against Miami, the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, New York, Indiana and Philadelphia, the Magic showed that they can play with some of the best teams in the NBA. Despite a challenging schedule because of the NBA lockout, the Magic have strung together four streaks of at least three wins in a row.

But theirs is a fragile mix, as some particularly ugly losses have shown. A four-game skid midseason seemed to put the season in jeopardy, but the Magic dug their way out of it. Two losses to the hated Boston Celtics in a four-day stretch produced much angst, but again the Magic found a way to get the season back on track.

So the team heads into the final 35 games, beginning with Wednesday’s showdown in Washington, knowing it must find some consistency to craft a truly special regular season over the next two months.

``The big picture is that we’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but for the most part we’ve played a lot of good basketball,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said. ``We kind of know when we don’t play with great energy we don’t play very well. But it is a positive to know that we are where we are and we can play a lot better. I think we’ll be more consistent in the second half of the season.’’

Here’s a look back at some of the highs and lows from the first half of the season:

BEST WIN: Feb. 8, Magic 102, Heat 89 – The Magic scorched the Heat with 17 3-pointers and big offensive games from Ryan Anderson and Dwight Howard. Anderson had 27 points, 11 rebounds and five 3-pointers, while Howard added 25 points, 24 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. The Magic attempted 42 3-pointers, the most in franchise history. They also attempted more threes (42) than twos (41), becoming just the fifth team in the past 16 years to do that. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
RUNNER-UP: Jan. 20, Magic 92, Lakers 80.

WORST LOSS: Jan. 26, Celtics 91, Magic 83 – Just when the Magic thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse than an 87-56 defeat in Boston four days earlier, they did at the Amway Center. Up as much as 27 points in the second quarter and 21 at the half, the Magic allowed Boston to come all the way back because of another offensive meltdown. The Magic just two of 17 shots (with five turnovers) in the fourth quarter and improbably went 18 minutes during one stretch without making a jump shot. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
RUNNER UP: Jan. 23, Celtics 87, Magic 56.

STRANGEST MOMENT: Jan. 12, Magic 117, Warriors 109 – Playing without center Kwame Brown, Golden State coach Mark Jackson made the odd decision to employ the ``Hack-A-Howard’’ method from start to finish in the game. The result was a NBA record 39 free throw attempts to break the previous record of 34 set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. Howard made 21 of his 39 free throws, while his Magic teammates converted on 15 of 16 tries. Two Warriors fouled out, while two others had five fouls. The end result was the first 40/20 game of Howard’s career as he finished with 45 points and 23 rebounds. Just for good measure he had four steals, three assists and two blocked shots. Said Howard: ``I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn’t care if I missed 30. I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence.’’
RUNNER UP: Jan. 18 -- Power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis gets technical foul for accidentally pulling down shorts while protesting a call.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Ryan Anderson, power forward. Everyone in Orlando knew Anderson was loaded with promise after two solid seasons with the Magic. But 2011-12 has clearly been a breakout season for Anderson. He leads the NBA in 3-pointers (99) made and 3-pointers attempted (228) and he’s made at least five in a game eight times. He set a career high in 3-pointers made twice by hitting seven against New York and Philadelphia. His improvement in scoring (16.1 ppg.) and rebounding (7.3 rpg.) makes him a leading candidate to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
RUNNER UP: Earl Clark, power forward.

BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE: Jason Richardson, shooting guard. Richardson had struggled most of the season in the second night of back-to-back games, and that seemed to be the case in the first half of a game in Milwaukee on Feb. 11. After being heckled by a fan that he was getting too old, Richardson exploded in the second half for eight 3-pointers. That tied a franchise record for 3-pointers in a half set by Tracy McGrady. Richardson made four threes in the third period and another four in the fourth quarter – the final one with blood coming out of his lip following a hard hit by Mike Dunleavy – to lead the Magic to a 99-94 victory. Richardson finished with 31 points, 28 coming after halftime. WATCH HIGHLIGHTS
RUNNER UP: Dwight Howard (45 points, 23 rebounds), Jan. 12 at Golden State.

QUOTABLE: ``we still have a lot of areas to improve in. We need to work on the areas that we can control, such as knowing our roles and bring a ton of energy every night,’’ Anderson said. ``We had a team meeting (last week) and talked about everybody coming together and depending on each other. We have to rely on one another and hold one another accountable. We haven’t always played that great and we’re still (fourth) in the East. So we must be doing something right. I just think (the first half of the season) shows that we can compete with anybody.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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