AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
It’s fitting that, after Nate Drexler wrote a piece explaining why the Orlando Magic are not a contender, in large part due to the team’s inconsistent nature, they went out and beat the Chicago Bulls on the road. This happening two days after the Magic lost to the Charlotte Bobcats. In case you’re keeping score at home, Orlando defeated a team with the NBA’s best record right after losing to a team with the worst record in the league. Go figure.
How did the Magic do it?
A whole lot of Dwight Howard, with some help from his supporting cast.
Dwight was a monster and he needed to be if Orlando wanted to defeat Chicago and snap their eight-game winning streak.
There was no one, absolutely no one, from the Bulls that could stop or slow down Dwight, as he did most of his damage in post-ups. No one.
Joakim Noah tried and failed. One particular possession, with the second quarter winding down, exemplified Noah’s fruitless endeavor in trying to contain Dwight. The big fella got the ball on the left block, faced up Noah, then backed him down. After a few dribbles, Dwight faked going to his left towards the baseline, which froze Noah for a split-second. Dwight, then, pivoted into the paint and put up a lefty hook as he got fouled by Noah for an and-one.
Noah is one of the best defenders in the NBA, let alone one of the best defensive bigs the league has to offer. But he can’t match Dwight’s strength, size, or athleticism. For Noah, that makes defending Dwight a tall task. The same can be said about Omer Asik, who struggled dealing with Howard when they were matched up against each other for a few minutes early in the second quarter.
Even Carlos Boozer got a crack at Dwight on defense. No such luck either.
Yes, guys like Jason Richardson stepped up. His back-to-back three-pointers in the right corner in transition late in the third quarter were huge, as it gave the Magic a much-needed cushion heading into the final period after Chicago briefly took the lead in the third quarter. Ryan Anderson was clutch in the fourth quarter, hitting a three-point shot with 1:27 left in the game that gave Orlando the lead, one they’d never relinquish, with the score at 94-91.
But it all comes back to Dwight. He set the tone on offense, dominated like he needed to, and even though he wasn’t up to snuff defensively at times, he helped limit Derrick Rose to 17 points on 6-for-22 shooting from the floor.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that thinks the Magic have a better team compared to the Bulls. That said, the NBA is all about matchups and against teams like Chicago, Orlando has the ultimate equalizer in Dwight.
The Magic may not be a contender, but they’re certainly a threat.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Dwight’s defense left a lot to be desired at times. Nevertheless, he was scary good offensively and that’s what Orlando needed to slay the Bulls at home. The Magic needed greatness from Dwight. They got it.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kyle Korver. He’s one of the best three-point shooters in the league. Which is why it was totally perplexing to see him miss six good looks beyond the arc in crunch time.
Anderson drilled a wide open three-point shot with 1:28 left in the game to give Orlando the lead for good after both teams exchanged leads in the fourth quarter. Jameer Nelson deserves kudos for setting Anderson up.
How about the fact that Dwight was the best player on the court? When Dwight plays at that level against the elite teams in the NBA, the Magic have won. First it was the Miami Heat, now Chicago.