The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New Jersey Nets by the score of 95-85 to extend their winning streak to five games. This was a game where the margin of victory shouldn’t have been as close as it was for the Magic, but they were able to come away with a victory and that’s all that matters for them. The Nets were without their star point guard, Deron Williams, given that he’s nursing a sore wrist that has kept him out of action recently. That put a lot of pressure on players like Jordan Farmar to perform in Williams’ absence and even though he played relatively well, it was clear New Jersey was missing their best player. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and three blocks, putting up another dominating performance, but five turnovers and 11 missed free throws hurt the Magic at times. Still, Howard was great and played as expected. Hedo Turkoglu was marvelous, contributing with 20 points and 13 assists. Granted, it was against the Nets but these are the types of outings Orlando needs from Turkoglu — he can’t be just a distributor, he needs to be a playmaker as well. Jason Richardson had 15 points. Ryan Anderson chipped in with 15 points, nine rebounds, and two steals while Brandon Bass had 14 points. Of note for the Magic, Jameer Nelson did not play in the second half due to a sprained left knee and it’s unknown how long he’ll be out, if anything.
Losing Nelson hurt for Orlando because his replacements at point guard, Chris Duhon and Gilbert Arenas, were awful. Duhon and Gilbert combined to shoot 3-of-19 from the field, doing everything humanly possible not to make a shot. It was a terrible display from both players, especially Arenas. Granted, Arenas had plenty of good looks from the perimeter and had some drives to the basket that he was unable to finish due to poor luck, like the basketball rimming out. But this is the Arenas that frightens the Magic because when he’s not contributing anything to the offense, he has no value on the court. It seems inevitable that Orlando is going to have to deal with Arenas playing this poorly in the playoffs, but the hope is that those occurrences happen once or twice during the postseason. If not, then that puts more pressure on other players to pick up the slack offensively.
As for Duhon, he simply doesn’t belong on the floor. Duhon is such a non-threat to score the basketball that it undermines the little value he has on defense. New Jersey, just like every other team in the NBA, dared Duhon to shoot and he only did when there was no other option. A poor display from a bad player.
But there was some bright spots for the Magic.
The combination of Bass and Anderson provided Orlando with plenty of firepower on offense at the power forward position. Bass and Anderson combined for 29 points, each of them scoring in their own unique ways. Bass got off to a quick start in the first quarter, scoring 11 points and being aided by Kris Humphries’ inability to keep track of him on defense. Bass got plenty of open looks for jumpers or dunks, and he was able to take advantage. Anderson, on the other hand, torched the Nets on the perimeter, connecting on five three-pointers and providing the spacing as a stretch four that has become commonplace for the Magic in recent years.
Lastly, Turkoglu was fantastic. With Nelson out, Orlando — like in 2009 — heavily relied in Turkoglu to guide the offense and he was able to do so.
In the fourth quarter and with the game still in the balance, the Magic ran 3/5 pick and rolls with Turkoglu and Howard on nearly every possession. The results were devastating, as Turkoglu was able to knock down shots from the perimeter and when he wasn’t looking for his shot, he was able to feed Howard for alley-oop dunks that are nearly unguardable. If Orlando wants to advance deep in the playoffs and do damage, this is the play that they need to rely on.
The 3/5 pick and roll with Turkoglu and Howard is a key to the Magic’s success.