Savage & Cohen: Magic-Bucks Postgame Analysis

By Dan Savage
January 5, 2011


The Orlando Magic have undergone a complete makeover since their last meeting with the Milwaukee Bucks.

They completed two blockbuster trades, had players recover from both injury and illness and have reclaimed their position among the East’s elite.

But the biggest difference from the last time the Magic matched up with the Bucks is that in this head-to-head battle superstar center Dwight Howard was on the court.

And on Wednesday night, he made all the difference.

Orlando’s Superman exploded for 28 points and 13 rebounds to lift the Magic to a 97-87 home triumph over the Bucks.

After throttling Orlando for 31 points and 18 rebounds earlier this season – then playing against former Magic backup center Marcin Gortat – Andrew Bogut had a miserable showing versus Howard, posting just six points and seven rebounds, while fouling out early in the fourth quarter.

“I would say Andrew Bogut would attest that Dwight Howard is a pretty good player,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Dwight was dominant and that’s what we needed him to be tonight.”

While Howard was superb, the rest of Orlando’s offense was balanced.

After Monday’s contest where eight players scored in double figures, the Magic had six players cross into double digits against Milwaukee.

Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson came through in the clutch, combining to fire off 18 of their 26 points in the second half.


Dan Savage
But despite a balanced offensive effort and staunch defensive stand down the stretch, Van Gundy and his squad were disappointed with a mid-game malaise that allowed the Bucks to remain in the hunt.

“We haven’t had the pace these last couple of games that we did in our first couple of games,” the Magic’s head coach explained. “I haven’t liked (us) playing half a game these last two games, I haven’t liked it.”

For a team that has championship aspirations, Orlando is well aware that it has to correct a number of energy-related habits prior to playoff time.

“We have to play every night in order for us to be that championship team that we talk about,” Howard added. “It’s the consistency that coach is looking for.”

With Houston on the horizon for a Friday date at Amway Center, the Magic won’t have much time to focus on improving their effort. But before we move on to that affair, OrlandoMagic.com’s immensely insightful Josh Cohen takes us through what went right, what went wrong and final observations from Wednesday’s win.

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By Josh Cohen
January 5, 2011

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Obviously disappointed he didn’t have the opportunity to play the last time the Magic and Bucks tangled on Dec. 4, Dwight Howard wanted to prove a point to his counterpart, Andrew Bogut, that when he is protecting the paint there is no way he can rack up the kind of statistics he did that night.

In early December, Bogut erupted for season highs of 31 points and 18 rebounds. On Wednesday, on the other hand, the Australian center was limited to just six points on 2-of-5 shooting from the field and 2-of-10 from the free throw line.

Howard, in contrast, powered home 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Orlando earned some revenge on that stomach-virus-plagued night at the Bradley Center.

“Andrew Bogut would probably attest that Dwight Howard is a pretty good player,” Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said.

A frequent role for Hedo Turkoglu during his first stint with the Magic was to be the hero and hit late-game critical shots. While it may not be as imperative for the Turkish superstar to be Orlando’s primary fourth-quarter scorer because of the plethora of talent on the current roster, he still can deliver if asked to.

With Milwaukee climbing back in the fourth, Turk buried two pivotal shots late, including a 3-pointer that halted the Bucks’ momentum with 3:11 left and 16-foot jumper on the subsequent possession.

Accustomed to being a scoring point guard with his ability to finish at the rim and bury outside jumpers, Jameer Nelson realized that if he wanted to be among the upper echelon at his position, he would need to become a more efficient distributor.

As demonstrated on Wednesday when he dished out nine assists, Nelson has clearly developed the very critical ability of finding his teammates for open shots.


Josh Cohen
WHAT WENT WRONG

Based on the last several performances, it had seemed Orlando’s 3-point shooting woes were a thing of the past.

But on Wednesday, the Magic struggled mightily from beyond the arc—shooting just 5-of-22 from long distance.

Credit the Bucks defense – which is a staple of Scott Skiles’ formula for success – or just conclude it was an atypical shooting night for the men in blue and white.

It remains a mystery if Gilbert Arenas – once one of the game’s most prolific scorers and attackers – can restore his offensive arsenal.

Since knee problems put his career on hiatus over the last few seasons, Arenas has not had the opportunity to showcase his potential.

While it may not be essential for the Tampa native to reinstate that offensive firepower with the surplus of scorers on the Magic’s roster, come playoff time Arenas may be relied on to score in the clutch.

On Wednesday, Gilbert contributed just six points on 2-of-9 shooting from the field.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS

Seven straight wins is seven straight wins – it’s impressive, hard to do and should be respected.

No, the Magic did not play first-rate basketball on Wednesday and no, they didn’t necessarily prove anything on what most observers will label as an ordinary night.

But they did win, and they won despite struggling shooting the ball. We all know Orlando is now a tremendous offensive team with an array of options since the two trades.

The Magic will be seeing some very good competition in the coming week – home against Houston, at Dallas, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Boston – so we may learn much more about this team when that stretch is complete.

Follow Josh Cohen on Twitter here