Denton: Magic-Rockets Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 7, 2011

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic’s consensus All-NBA center, Dwight Howard, had a rather forgettable Friday night, spending more time on the bench than on the floor because of pesky foul trouble.

And for one night at least, no one – well, no one other than ESPN’s cameras -- noticed Orlando’s big man being mostly inactive and not needed by a deep Magic team loaded with plenty of potent weapons.

One of the overlooked products of Orlando’s two blockbuster trades three weeks ago is the sheer number of weapons that the Magic now possess, thus allowing them to survive the rare off night by Howard. Friday was one such night when six Orlando scored in double figures and the Magic defeated Houston 110-95 for their eighth consecutive victory.

``It helps everybody on this team out having so many weapons like we do,’’ said Magic power forward Brandon Bass, who had 18 points and nine rebounds and made one wide-open jumper after another when Houston’s defense was scrambling. ``Teams have to pick who they are going to double-team and who they are going to leave open, and right now they can’t leave any of us open. And if I keep making shots they’ve to guard me and let Dwight post up and then he’ll have a big game, too.’’

Orlando (24-12) hasn’t lost since Dec. 21 against Dallas, the team that it will face Saturday night for a chance to extend the winning streak to a franchise-tying-best nine games. Each of the eight victories of late have been by at least eight points. The Magic have never won more than eight straight games in the Howard-Jameer Nelson era in Orlando from 2004-11, and that chance will come against the Mavs.

``I’m pretty sure some of our guys are paying attention to the streak, but we’re just trying to continue to play healthy basketball, said Nelson, who had 10 points and eight assists to push his career-best assist total to 6.8 a game. ``We know that we’re preparing for something bigger than just these games. We want to win them all, but we’re also focusing on being right come playoff time.’’

Jason Richardson made seven of eight shots and scored 18 points, while Ryan Anderson scored 16 points off the bench to give the Magic six players in double figures in scoring. They shot 51.7 percent, had 25 assists on the 45 baskets and hit eight 3-pointers. Howard finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes, while Hedo Turkoglu added 12 points and six assists.

``That’s how we roll, everybody has everybody else’s back on this team,’’ Howard said. ``It’s great knowing there are going to be nights when we have a lot of guys who can hit shots. And we have guys who can come off the bench and score. It’s good to have the balance that we have. Against the real good teams we need that balance to beat them.’’

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Friday’s game at Amway Center that capped an impressive 4-0 homestand: