AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young
This game was all about Dwight Howard — both good and bad.
Dwight did whatever he wanted on offense. For most of the game, he terrorized the Toronto Raptors in pick-and-roll sets. The Orlando Magic ran a number of 1/5 pick-and-rolls and 3/5 pick-and-rolls with Nelson and Turkoglu serving as the ball handlers, and Dwight was able to convert on a handful of layups and dunks.
The Raptors generally did a poor job of defending the pick-and-rolls. On one possession, Aaron Gray hedged Turkoglu but was too late to recover on Dwight, giving up a dunk. On another possession, Gray opted to sag off Nelson to be in better position to stop or slow down Dwight on the roll. That didn’t work either, as Dwight slipped the screen for another dunk.
Those are instances where a weak-side defender for Toronto should rotate over to serve as the last line of defense. That didn’t happen.
When Dwight wasn’t running his own dunk-a-thon, he was making layups and hook shots in the post. Not all of them came easy either. A few times, for instance, Dwight executed an up-and-under move on the low block against Jamaal Magloire, getting him to bite on the up-fake. That allowed Dwight to go up for an easy layup.
Needless to say, Dwight had everything working for him on offense except for his midrange jumper he’s pretty much abandoned this season. As a result, Toronto was at Dwight’s mercy all night long.
Dwight couldn’t make his free-throws, particularly in crunch time.
With 2:58 left in the game, the Magic were up by nine points with the score at 87-78. But the Raptors were able to go on a 7-0 run in a little more than two minutes to cut their deficit to two points with 31.8 seconds left, largely because Howard missed six free-throws during that timeframe.
Orlando is fortunate that Redick bailed them out with a clutch three-pointer with 9.8 seconds left to fend off Toronto’s rally but it never should have came down to that.
Dwight says he wants the ball in the fourth quarter. Shooting 1-for-7 from the free-throw line in the period isn’t going to help his argument.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Dwight Howard was unstoppable offensively. There wasn’t much Aaron Gray, Jamaal Magloire, and the Raptors’ defense as a whole could do to slow down Dwight from scoring on dunks, layups, and hook shots.
With the Magic up by two points with the score at 87-85, J.J. Redick made a clutch three-pointer in the right corner with 9.8 seconds left in the game. That gave Orlando enough cushion to hold on for a narrow win.
That Was … Almost Costly
Although Dwight had 36 points on 16-for-20 from the floor, he missed seven free-throws in the fourth quarter (4-for-14 from the free-throw line for the game). That allowed Toronto to come back and nearly steal a victory.