Denton's Notebook: April 16, 2011

By John Denton
April 16, 2011

ORLANDO – Cleared to play for the first time in five weeks, Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick admitted that no one would have more jitters in Game 1 of the playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks than him.

Redick suffered a lower abdominal strain during a morning practice on March 11 and hasn’t played in a game since March 9. Redick, Orlando’s most consistent reserve all season, tried to come back in April, but suffered a couple of setbacks along the way.

Redick missed the final 17 regular-season games, but was finally cleared to practice on Friday. And when there was no lingering soreness afterward, Redick returned to action off the bench for Game 1.

``It will be a little weird, to be honest, because I haven’t played a game in forever,’’ Redick said. ``It’s going to be great to playing again because the playoffs are a different beast and it’ll be even more exciting.’’

Redick knew that he’d be able to play on Saturday after making it through Friday’s physical, two-hour practice. The shooting guard fought through screens, battling defensively on the post and ran the break without any pain in his midsection.

Redick entered Saturday’s game with 57 seconds to play in the first quarter to a rousing ovation from the Amway Center crowd. Redick, who converted a twisting, reserve layup for his first basket, said his conditioning was better than expected in practice on Friday and he expected to play well.

``I expect to play hard and play with great energy. I just want to try and give these guys a boost off the bench,’’ Redick said. ``(Conditioning) will be a factor, for sure. I bet my heart will be beating at 160 (beats a minute) before I even start running up and down the court. I hope I catch my second wind pretty easily. I’m a guy who is usually in pretty good shape, so hopefully it doesn’t take too much time to get back.’’

DWIGHT STOPPER: It’s no secret that the Hawks had success against Magic superstar center Dwight Howard in the regular season, holding the league’s second-best shooter to below 50 percent in three of the four meetings.

Howard scoffed at the notion that Atlanta’s journeyman center, Jason Collins, was some sort of ``Dwight stopper’’ after baiting the Magic’s star into fouls and limiting his effectiveness around the rim.

``It is what it is,’’ said Howard, who scored the Magic’s first 12 points in Saturday’s Game 1. ``I just know the people writing the articles aren’t out there playing. We’re the ones out there on the court playing and we’ll decide the game.’’

Collins disputed the notion that part of his job description is to frustrate Howard and bait him into cheap fouls.

``If playing solid post defense frustrates you, then I guess so,’’ Collins said. ``My job is to make it a physical ballgame and use my fouls and know that we have other guys on this team, with Zaza (Pachulia), Etan Thomas, Al Horford, Hilton Armstrong, Josh Powell — the list goes on. We’ve got a lot of bodies to throw at him. I can’t save any fouls.’’

CONSUMED COACH: Magic coach Stan van Gundy has been known to obsess over every minor detail of a game plan, and he watches so much film that he can often call out the play of the opposition before they even run it.

But Van Gundy said the workload in the playoffs is usually less because he only has one team to study as opposed to getting ready for two teams on back-to-back sets of games. And because the Magic are playing Atlanta, a team they faced eight times last season and four times this year, familiarity helps shorten the preparation time.

``After Game 1 I’ll only have one game to watch,’’ Van Gundy said. ``During the season when you’re getting ready for the next opponent there are multiple games to watch. I told my assistants that I think the workload actually is less because you are focusing on just one team. But really it just leaves more time to worry.’’

ETC: Van Gundy passed on the opportunity to go with his wife, two daughters and son to the Lady Gaga concert at the Amway Center on Friday night, instead enjoying the solitude of an empty house. Said Van Gundy: ``I didn’t have any problem getting to sleep. It was just me, two dogs and four cats, so it was probably as quiet as it’s ever been. I got a great night’s sleep.’’ … By the start of Saturday’s game, Howard was clearly tired of hearing about Atlanta’s 3-1 advantage against the Magic in the regular season. Said Howard: ``We can’t focus on the regular season anymore. Last year, in the Boston series (in the Eastern Conference Finals) we beat them pretty good in the regular season and in the playoffs it was a different story.’’ … Howard’s 31-point first half on Saturday eclipsed his previous career high for a half which was 26 in Portland on Dec. 9. … Game 2 is Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Amway Center. The series then moves to Atlanta for Games 3 and 4 on Friday and Sunday.

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