Denton: Magic-Grizzlies Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 31, 2011

Some 30 hours before the Orlando Magic hit the floor Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic franchise center Dwight Howard brushed aside several questions about his offensive growth and instead wanted to talk only about defense.

``The only way it’s going to change for us is if we decide that we’re going to do it defensively,’’ Howard said. ``If we don’t do it, we’ll win a game here and there and remain one of the top five teams in the East, but that’s not the goal.’’

The Magic had several chances to beat the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, but missed a critical free throw and two wide-open 3-point shots. But Orlando’s 100-97 loss to the Grizzlies ultimately came not because of those missed shots, but because of a defense that was again shredded and put the team in too big of a hole.

Orlando (31-18) allowed Memphis (25-24) to shoot 53.3 percent and get big games from point guard Mike Conley (26 points, 11 assists and four 3-pointers) and Marc Gasol (19 points and eight rebounds). The Grizzlies beat the Magic in Memphis for the eighth time in 10 meetings largely by shooting 76 percent in the second quarter and 58 percent in the third quarter to build a lead as big as 13 points.

The Magic made a valiant run in the fourth quarter to draw within 98-97, but a free throw miss by Gilbert Arenas and missed 3-pointers by Ryan Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu spoiled any chances of the come-from-behind win. And it didn’t help matters when Howard picked up his 13th technical foul of the season with 5.5 seconds left in the game.

``Again we dug ourselves a big hole and we fought back and came up short. It’s becoming the same old story all of the time,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``I applaud the resilience, but if you’re not going to get over the hump and get it done it really doesn’t amount to much.

``We’ll (defend) at times. Right now, we’re not ready to contend because we don’t defend hard enough for long enough,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``We’re going to see if over the next 10 ½ weeks if it will change. If it does then we have a chance to be as good as anybody and if it doesn’t then we don’t. It’s pretty simple to me. Particularly in the third quarter we didn’t play well at all, we dug ourselves a big hole and we just weren’t good enough.’’

The Magic got 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots from Howard and a spirited fourth-quarter finish from reserve point guard Arenas (10 points, three assists and two steals). But in the end, because of the defensive woes and the missed opportunities offensively all they were left with was a desperation heave from Jason Richardson that fell short.

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Monday in Memphis: