Denton: Stage Set for Sunshine State Rivalry Game
By John Denton
February 7, 2012
ORLANDO – As a NBA shooting guard, Orlando Magic veteran Jason Richardson usually encounters some of the toughest defensive matchups on a nightly basis. And while knowing that totally stopping the star players is next to impossible, there is one rule of thumb that Richardson usually goes by.
``The way I see it is if I can keep them within five points of their scoring average then I’ve done my job,’’ Richardson said. ``Five points below or five points above and I’ve done pretty good. Against guys like (Kevin Durant), Kobe (Bryant), LeBron James and (Dwyane Wade) you’re just not going to shut them down because of the number of attempts and free throws that they are going to get. So just keep them at their average or below and I’ve done my job.’’
The problem with that theory, of course, is that Miami’s James and Wade are averaging 29.2 points and 21.0 points respectively. James is second in the NBA in scoring and is coming off 30- and 40-point games last week. He’s also averaging 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists while shooting a jaw-dropping 55.2 percent from the floor this season.
Orlando’s Richardson will likely draw the matchup against Wade on Wednesday night when the Magic (15-10) host the Heat (18-6) at the Amway Center. Wade has played in just 15 games this season because of ankle and wrist injuries, but he appears to be rounding into form just in time for a game against the rival Magic.
The Heat are 31/2 games ahead of the Magic in the Southeast Division. Miami has won its last two games, won eight of 10 and is a respectable 7-4 on the road this season. In some ways, a Magic team that has been hot and cold of late – a five-game winning streak begat a stretch of five losses in six games which was followed by a three-game winning streak that ended Monday night – will use Wednesday’s game against the Heat as a measuring stick moment.
``They’re a great team and a team that we always like competing against, so it should be a good game,’’ Magic forward Ryan Anderson said. ``Miami is one of the teams that we know we have to get through if we want to really be successful this season.’’
In their first season together a year ago in Miami, James and Wade scored at will at times against the Magic. James had a 51-point effort in Orlando last February and averaged 30 points in four games against the Magic. Wade averaged 21.5 points against the Magic last season, including a 28-point effort. The two teams split the season series two games apiece last year.
Players such as Richardson will go into Wednesday’s game hoping to limit the number of layups and free throw attempts for players such as Wade and James. The goal for the Magic is to close off the lane, limit the number of fouls and make them take contested jump shots from the wings. Saying that and doing that, of course, are two different things entirely.
``You don’t want to give up stuff going to the rim, but LeBron in particular is shooting the ball really far (from the perimeter) right now,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``Then they have (Mario) Chalmers shooting it well and Mike Miller and James Jones are shooters, so you can’t give up uncontested jumpers.’’
Hedo Turkoglu will start on James defensively, but undoubtedly the Magic will use Quentin Richardson and even Earl Clark on James throughout the game. The energy level of Turkoglu is a concern, especially after he slogged through an 0-for-6 shooting night on Monday in the Magic’s 107-102 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Turkoglu and superstar center Dwight Howard were held out of contact drills on Tuesday in practice, the Magic’s first full-contact practice session since Jan. 14 because of the NBA’s condensed schedule this season. Van Gundy said he will consider resting Turkoglu a couple of games if necessary if it helps him recover physically and play like he did early in the season.
But Turkoglu will be on the floor Wednesday when the Magic will throw everything they have at Wade and James – and to a lesser extent power forward Chris Bosh – in an attempt to beat the Heat. Van Gundy considers Miami the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, especially so now that the Heat having Bosh playing at a level similar to that of James and Wade.
``They have looked unbelievable,’’ Van Gundy said. ``They’ve had their nights where they weren’t so good, but when you watch somebody like that you normally go to the schedule and realize they are playing their fifth game in seven nights or something.
``(Miami coach) Erik (Spoelstra) doesn’t get much credit because they have so much talent, but the way he’s gotten more involved in their system without taking away from LeBron or Wade has been amazing,’’ Van Gundy said. ``They always play great defense and play hard, but the way they have gotten Bosh to play has really helped them a lot.’’
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
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.
Follow John Denton on Twitter here