Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
The Orlando Magic, healthy and rested, were able to defeat the Dallas Mavericks by the score of 97-82 in front of a nationally-televised audience. Coming off an overtime win against the Memphis Grizzlies on the road the evening before, it seemed like the Mavericks were a step slow against the Magic. Especially when you consider the fact that Orlando played on three days rest. Dirk Nowitzki, with 24 points and six rebounds, was the only starter for Dallas that played with any sort of energy (J.J. Barea and Jason Terry performed admirably off the bench). For the Magic, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus returned from their minor injuries and performed well. Pietrus played a great game off the bench, in particular, with a season-high 24 points on eight shots. Efficient. Dwight Howard was splendid, also, dominating on both ends of the floor and finishing with 17 points, 20 rebounds, and five blocks. For Howard, that’s the ninth time in the regular season in which he’s grabbed 20 or more rebounds in a game.
In the first quarter, Howard got off to a quick start on offense as the Magic ran a bevy of 4-out/1-in offensive sets and fed him the basketball in the post a number of times. Brendan Haywood, noted for his defensive prowess, had no chance as Howard executed an array of maneuvers in the low block that would make assistant coach Patrick Ewing proud. Lefty hooks, spin moves, you name it. Howard did it.
Pietrus stepped up huge in the second quarter, as Orlando struggled to get production from anyone else not named Howard. Pietrus could do no wrong, as he scored 15 of the Magic’s 25 points in the period. Most of Pietrus’ points in the quarter came from spot-up opportunities around the three-point line but he even posted up on one possession, for good measure, and made the layup. It was that kind of night for Pietrus, who is no stranger to playing well at the American Airlines Center.
In the second half, Carter and Jameer Nelson got things going offensively. Nelson was in attack mode, making a healthy dose of mid-range jumpers that — when it comes down to it — makes him the All-Star caliber point guard he’s proven he can be. Carter was relatively nonexistent in the first half, scoring two points. But after getting a few easy buckets with the third quarter winding down, Carter couldn’t miss in the fourth quarter. Carter picked apart the Mavericks’ defense by executing the 2/5 pick and roll with Howard and the 1/2 pick and roll with Nelson to near perfection. Carter made shots in isolation sets, too, but he’s most dangerous when engaged in the pick and roll variations that head coach Stan Van Gundy likes to run. Particularly late in games when Orlando needs a basket.
A big reason why the Magic won, though, was because of their defense. Orlando’s pick and roll defense, to be specific, against Dallas was excellent, as they forced the Mavericks to rely on Nowitzki, or anyone else for that matter, to score one-on-one. That played into the Magic’s hands. It can’t be understated, though, how Howard’s defensive presence means everything to Orlando. There were a number of times when a player for Dallas would be near the rim but wouldn’t bother to attempt a layup because Howard was in the paint. As such, more often than not, the Mavericks were forced to settle for contested jumpshots.
Oh, and Brandon Bass made an appearance in the game. Since Rashard Lewis got into foul trouble briefly in the third quarter, Van Gundy gave Bass a shot at defending Nowitzki. The decision worked out, as Bass played with ample energy and seemed supremely motivated to play his best against his former team. Eight points in roughly 12 minutes? Solid.