Wizards Report - Orlando
Orlando—Stay Dwight this is your city, are the words splashed across a downtown sign in blue and white paint. Dwight Howard is still very much with the Magic and he will be part of the challenge tonight for the Wizards as they try to avoid a 0-6 start for the first time in franchise history.
The Wizards have been making small steps to jump start the start of the season. On Friday there was a better second half against the Bucks. On Sunday it was the same thing, a better second half against the Celtics. Now the Wizards hit Orlando on the heels of their most complete game, although still a 100-92 loss to the Celtics on Monday.
“The biggest thing is we are still nit making shots, said head coach Flip Saunders. “When we relax and start making some shots and get comfortable, we are going to be even more effective. We are competing. We are doing a better job defensively and rebounding.”
That trend will have to continue tonight against the Magic. JaVale McGee has put together consecutive double-double games in points and rebounds, but perhaps more importantly showed improvement on defensive assignments in the second Celtics game. The lighter and more athletic McGee will need use his wits against the bigger and stronger Howard.
“Against great players, the biggest thing is to somehow make them uncomfortable,” said Saunders. “It is about finding a way to keep players like Howard from getting in a great rhythm.”
It is possible to disrupt the Magic. On Monday the Magic turned in its worst scoring performance of the season, an 89-78 loss at Detroit on Monday. Orlando was held to 32 second-half points, but the schedule may have played a role. Against the Pistons, Orlando was playing its sixth game in nine days.
The Wizards flew from Boston to Orlando on Tuesday afternoon and went straight to the Magic’s practice court for a 90-minute session. It was a chance to work on shooting and on cleaning up the offense which in the fourth quarter against the Celtics featured what Saunders described as “empty possessions without aggressive cuts to the basket.”
Against the Magic Andray Blatche will be looking to build on his best game of the season. Blatche’s 28-point, 9-rebound performance on Monday against the Celtics is certainly something he is capable of, but was unexpected. Confidence did not seem to be with Blatche as he missed good opportunities in the season’s first four games.
“He made quicker decisions,” Saunders said. “We have been talking to him for the last few days about if he has a shot take it and not pump-fake a lot. He made some shots and he got his confidence going a little bit. It’s like anyone, you make some shots, get a little more confident, and then your whole game starts playing a little better.”
To move forward, the Wizards are also fighting history. There has been little magic for the Wizards in games against Orlando. In Florida the Wizards have lost their last three to the Magic by at least 25 points and overall have dropped 14 of the last 17 games against the Magic.