Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Before Dwight Howard was ultimately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal in August, for months, Magic fans had to endure endless chatter surrounding Howard’s future with the Orlando Magic, given that he had an early termination clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent after the 2011-2012 season.
And during that time, Howard further tortured the fan base by being indecisive about his trade demands, his trade wish list, and his opt-out clause, while also wanting Stan Van Gundy fired behind the scenes. Hence the reason why “The Indecision” and “Dwightmare” became a part of the sports lexicon.
Magic fans endured a lot of grief because of Howard. Which is why the Magic’s 113-103 win against Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday proved to be a cathartic experience for the fan base.
Orlando was able to come away with a victory thanks to an offensive explosion in the fourth quarter, in which they eviscerated the Lakers’ defense in the period with dribble penetration, particularly in pick-and-rolls, while simultaneously slowing down Los Angeles offensively by employing the hack-a-Howard tactic.
The players of the game for the Magic were Redick (14 points and seven assists), Nelson (19 points, 13 assists, five rebounds, and two steals), and Afflalo (30 points on 11-for-18 shooting, five rebounds, and five assists) — two former teammates of Howard’s, as well as the player who was the centerpiece of Orlando’s trade package for Howard.
Afflalo did much of his damage in transition, where he was able to make layups and PUJITS (pull-up jumpers in transition). And in half-court sets, Afflalo — who has struggled with his shot selection early in the season — eschewed midrange jumpers in favor of corner threes. All four of Afflalo’s three-point field goals made were corner threes. When Afflalo optimizes his shot selection, as he did on Sunday, he’s capable of putting up points in a hurry.
As for Nelson, there’s something about Staples Center that gets him going (see January 16, 2009). Maybe it had to do with playing against a former teammate. Maybe Nelson was due for a big game. Regardless, Nelson was one of the architects of the Magic’s 40-point fourth quarter, using his dribble penetration to put pressure on the Lakers’ defense. Not only that, but Nelson’s two three-pointers in the late stages of the period proved to be back breakers as Los Angeles was unable to recover from the Magic’s scoring surge.
And lastly, Redick put on a clinic in the first half on how to score off the ball, using a variety of screens and cuts to the basket to score with relative ease. But it was Redick’s passing in the fourth quarter that proved to be a game-changer. Redick had seven assists for the game, with five of them coming in the fourth quarter. Like Nelson, Redick used dribble penetration to break down the Lakers defensively.
Whatever happens the rest of the season, rest assured that this is a night that Magic fans won’t soon forget.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Despite trailing for most of the game, Orlando kept fighting and put together a fourth quarter rally for the ages. This was the Magic’s best performances of the regular season and a group effort in every sense of the term.
Trailing 84-83 midway through the fourth quarter, head coach Jacque Vaughn employed the hack-a-Howard tactic until the two minute mark in the period. During that stretch, Orlando went on a 20-9 run while Howard shot 5-for-12 from the free-throw line.
That Was … Liberating
After all the things the Magic fan base went through with Howard, this was a win they deserved to have. Ask any fan and they’ll probably take this victory and put it up there with any in franchise history.