Savage & Cohen: Magic-Knicks Postgame Analysis

By Dan Savage
December 30, 2010


The new-look Orlando Magic have only played together for seven games, but it appears they’ve already discovered the secret to winning close contests.

Seven Magic players scored in double figures as Orlando managed to get defensive stops down the stretch and once again used a balanced offensive attack to hold off the New York Knicks for a 112-103 home victory on Thursday.

“I liked the way that we finished the game out,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “I thought we did a good job there. They’re a very difficult team to play.”

Dwight Howard delivered a phenomenal performance, erupting for team-highs in points (24), rebounds (18) and blocks (4) to help offset a 30-point effort from Knicks center Amar’e Stoudemire.

“Dwight is a guy that gets the ball deep into the paint,” said Stoudemire. “He is strong. Once he gets the ball that low in the paint it is tough to stop him. He is pretty tough down there.”

The triumph marked the fifth straight win for Orlando, which scored over 100 points for the fourth time during that span.

“I think that we’re becoming a very unselfish team,” said Ryan Anderson, who poured in 14 points. “We’re learning what each other can do and we’re passing the ball. We’re definitely just looking for each other’s shots and creating openings.”


Dan Savage
Hedo Turkoglu once again was a difference maker for the Magic in the fourth quarter, posting eight of his 17 points in the final frame.

None of his buckets was more critical than a clutch trey with 2:21 left in the contest that put the Magic up seven and the game practically out of reach.

If the Knicks had any life left, they final nail in their coffin was pounded in by J.J. Redick, who drained a turnaround jump shot with 50.2 seconds left to give Orlando a 10-point lead. Redick finished with 14 points off the pine.

“I think we’re playing at a faster pace,” the backup shooting guard explained. “It’s more energy and I think that was the thinking behind the trade was to give us new life.”

Orlando’s energy will once again be tested next Monday when it battles the high-paced Golden State Warriors at Amway Center.

But before we close out the 2010 portion of the season, let’s take a look at what went right, what went wrong and final observations from the Magic’s win over the Knicks.

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By Josh Cohen
December 30, 2010

WHAT WENT RIGHT

After trading away both Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, the Orlando Magic realized they would need to convince one of their newcomers to be the go-to guy down the stretch of a close game.

Luckily for the blue and white, it really wasn’t a difficult task since Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, particularly, have proven throughout their careers to be heroes when asked to be.

On Thursday against New York, both Turkoglu and Jason Richardson answered the bell.

J-Rich, for one, buried a critical 3-pointer with 3:41 remaining after the Knicks cut the Magic’s lead to two and Hedo followed with a trey of his own and a driving layup on consecutive possessions to secure Orlando’s fifth straight win.

Perhaps the best word to describe the revitalized and reformed Magic is “balanced.”

During this five-game winning streak, the Magic have won because everyone who sees the court has been contributing.

Against San Antonio, seven Magic players scored in double figures, against Boston five, versus New Jersey six, in Cleveland four and on Thursday, they featured seven in double digits.

Before Brandon Bass became a regular starter, I began to endorse him as a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The six-year veteran has been outstanding this season and is showing why the Magic signed him to a multi-year deal in 2009.

Since he is a starter now, someone else has been given the opportunity to claim the candidacy as a potential Sixth Man of the Year: J.J. Redick.

The sharpshooting guard has been tremendous off the bench since the trades occurred and on Thursday, he continued to shine with 14 points, including a dagger jumper with 50 seconds left in the fourth.


Josh Cohen
If not Sixth Man of the Year, Redick could possibly be the league’s Most Improved Player.

While President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith continues his quest to find a backup center, the Magic somehow overcame size deficiency to dominate the glass.

Dwight Howard recorded 18 rebounds as Orlando controlled a 51-35 advantage on the boards.

WHAT WENT WRONG

After dominating the second quarter and building a lead as big as 20, the Magic loosened up in the third quarter to allow the Knicks to sneak back into the game.

New York accumulated 59 points in the second half while shooting better than 50 percent.

Howard was called for his 12th technical foul of the season for arguing with the officials. If and when he picks up 16 technicals, D12 will be suspended for a game.

Quentin Richardson stayed home as he continues to battle with the flu. After a stomach virus epidemic swept through the team earlier this month, the Magic are taking no chances of something similar happening again.

Since the beginning of the month, only Bass has played in every Magic game. Everyone else was sick or injured at some point, traded or is new.

FINAL OBSERVATIONS

I would be ecstatic if the Magic and Knicks end up playing each other in the playoffs. I think it would be a fascinating series, especially offensively since both teams flourish on their offensive firepower.

A Howard-Stoudemire matchup over the course of a seven-game series would be enthralling and would definitely excite both Orlando and New York fans.

Smith, the Magic’s General Manager, will have a very difficult and intricate decision to make over the next few weeks as he attempts to acquire a backup center. Everyone who is currently seeing playing time on the Magic is performing at a reasonably high level, and the last thing he wants to do is shatter chemistry.

The team, overall, seems very loose, very focused and very determined to be in a championship mode by the start of the playoffs.

Follow Josh Cohen on Twitter here