Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 187

Feb 01

Video Analysis: A dominant Dwight Howard in Chicago

The Orlando Magic have been going through a rough patch lately, making it harder for the mainstream media and blogosphere to consider them an elite team and a championship contender right now. That being said, if there’s been a bright spot amidst the darkness for the Magic, it’s been Dwight Howard.

Mental gaffes against the Memphis Grizzlies aside, Howard has been playing like a man possessed lately. Howard toyed around the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday, putting up 20 points, 20 rebounds, and two blocks in roughly 26 minutes of playing time. But the game that stands out for Howard was his performance on Friday.

On that night, Howard put on a clinic against the Chicago Bulls — also known as the best defensive team in the NBA, given that they rank first in defensive efficiency. No matter who the Bulls assigned to Howard, whether it was Kurt Thomas, Carlos Boozer, or Omer Asik, there was little that could be done to slow down the big fella.

For the most part, head coach Tom Thibodeau made the decision to play Howard straight up, given that’s the strategy he elected to use as the assistant coach of the Boston Celtics last year in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals when they won the series in 6 games.

Let Howard get his, then stop the perimeter attack for Orlando.

Granted, the strategy worked — Chicago lost the battle but won the war — but not before Howard unleashed his fury. For those that want to make the argument that Howard is on the shortlist to win the Most Valuable Player award, this is the game to watch.

Jan 31

Recap: Memphis Grizzlies 100, Orlando Magic 97

AP Photo/ Mark Weber

BOX SCORE

If the game against the Chicago Bulls may have put the nail in the coffin for a team considered by many as part of the elite in the NBA, consider the case closed now as the Memphis Grizzlies were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 100-97. To be rather blunt, stupidity almost cost the Magic a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. With 5.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Mike Conley headed to the foul throw line after Jason Richardson fouled him following a missed three-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu that could have given Orlando the lead. But before Conley went to shoot his free-throws, Dwight Howard – inexplicably — mouthed off at one of the officials and earned a technical foul at the most inopportune time. This is the franchise player for the Magic, and he was unable to keep his mouth shut at a crucial moment in time. Fortunately for Howard, after Zach Randolph made the technical free-throw to give the Grizzlies a two-point lead, Conley missed one of two free-throws. That gave Orlando one last chance at tying things up, but Richardson missed a 30-foot three-point heave with time expiring. Another loss for the Magic and it’s becoming clear that this is a flawed team that has little chance of competing for the Eastern Conference title in their current form. Memphis was led by a balanced attack, six players scored in double-figures. However, the player of the game for the Grizzlies was Conley, who finished with 26 points and 11 assists — first time in his career that he’s been able to amass more than 20 points and 10 assists in the same game. Orlando was led by a balanced attack as well, with six players scoring in double-figures. Howard finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks but also had seven turnovers. Also, Brandon Bass left in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle.

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Jan 31

Preview: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies

8:00 EST | Sun Sports
31-17 @ 24-24
Pythagorean Record: 33-15 Pythagorean Record: 26-22
Pace: 92.1 (16th) Pace: 92.4 (15th)
Offensive Rating: 108.4 (10th) Offensive Rating: 106.2 (17th)
Defensive Rating: 102.2 (4th) Defensive Rating: 105.1 (11th)
FedEx Forum | Magic lead season series 1-0

Jan 31

Recap: Orlando Magic 103, Cleveland Cavaliers 87

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

In a game that lacked any drama, whatsoever, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers by the score of 103-87. For the Cavaliers, the latest loss puts them on a 20-game losing streak. Clearly, this is not the same franchise that was piloted by LeBron James for the past seven years. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Despite playing barely 27 minutes, Dwight Howard was able to put together his fourth 20-20 game of the regular season with exactly 20 points, 20 rebounds, and two blocks. Not bad. Ryan Anderson is beginning to emerge as one of the best role players in the league, finishing with 23 points and 16 rebounds off the bench. J.J. Redick had another of his efficient outings, putting up 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. Jason Richardson and Brandon Bass each chipped in with 12 points. The story of the game wasn’t so much about Orlando winning, but more so the dramatic fall of grace that Cleveland has had to endure this season. Without the services of Anderson Varejao, arguably their best player on the team, the Cavaliers have had to endure a lot of losing and there doesn’t seem to be any hope in sight for the foreseeable future, not until the offseason when they have a chance to pick first in the 2011 NBA Draft. In some ways, Cleveland offers a cautionary tale of what happens when a player of James’ caliber leaves.

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Jan 30

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

6:00 EST | Sun Sports
8-38 @ 30-17
Pythagorean Record: 8-38 Pythagorean Record: 32-15
Pace: 93.5 (10th) Pace: 92.0 (16th)
Offensive Rating: 99.9 (30th) Offensive Rating: 108.5 (10th)
Defensive Rating: 112.0 (30th) Defensive Rating: 102.4 (5th)
Amway Center | Magic lead season series 2-0

Jan 29

Recap: Chicago Bulls 99, Orlando Magic 90

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

In a revealing game that may have put the nail on the coffin for a team considered by many as part of the elite in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 99-90. The Bulls were led by a three-pronged attack, as Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and Carlos Boozer took turns dominating the game and befuddling the Magic defense in the process. Rose was spectacular, finishing with 22 points, 12 assists, and six rebounds. It wasn’t the most efficient outing for Rose but he proved that he’s deserving of being the All-Star starting point guard for the Eastern Conference. Deng was a force, putting up 26 points, eight rebounds, and two steals — he gave Hedo Turkoglu fits defensively, too. Boozer contributed with 16 points, 16 rebounds, and four assists. As for Orlando, it was the Dwight Howard show. Howard played one of the best games in his illustrious career in the league, dominating to the tune of 40 points, 15 rebounds, four steals, and three blocks. Only in Game 6 of the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers was Howard better. Howard was transcendent at the United Center, yet it didn’t matter because a lack of support from his teammates wasted his herculean performance. Cavaliers fans can relate to that last sentence, which is scary in the grand scheme of things when talks of Howard possibly leaving the Magic in 2012 grow louder by the day. Unfortunately for Orlando, their loss proved something that will — undoubtedly — discourage Magic fans.

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Jan 28

Preview: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls

8:00 EST | Sun Sports
30-16 @ 31-14
Pythagorean Record: 32-14 Pythagorean Record: 31-14
Pace: 92.0 (17th) Pace: 91.7 (18th)
Offensive Rating: 108.7 (11th) Offensive Rating: 105.5 (21st)
Defensive Rating: 102.3 (5th) Defensive Rating: 99.4 (1st)
United Center | Magic lead season series 1-0

Jan 27

Orlando’s Dwight Howard named NBA All-Star for fifth straight time

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via the Orlando Magic:

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard led all Eastern Conference players, and was second overall, in the NBA All-Star Balloting program presented by T-Mobile with 2,099,204 votes. It marks Howard’s fifth straight appearance in the NBA All-Star Game and fourth consecutive time voted a starter.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, a three-time All-Star MVP, is this year’s overall leading vote-getter with 2,380,016 votes. It is Bryant’s 13th consecutive All-Star selection; only Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, with 14 straight nods each, have more.

Joining Howard in the Eastern Conference starting lineup at forward are the Miami Heat’s LeBron James (2,053,011), the 2006 and 2008 All-Star Game MVP, and the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire (1,674,995). The starters for the East at guard are the Heat’s Dwyane Wade (2,048,175), last year’s All-Star Game MVP, and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose (1,914,996), who earns his first All-Star Game start. James and Wade are the first set of teammates to start an All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference since Wade and Shaquille O’Neal represented the Heat in 2007 in Las Vegas.

Bryant, the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, and the All-Star MVP in 2002 and 2007, and co-MVP along with Shaquille O’Neal in 2009, is joined in the Western Conference starting backcourt by the New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul (1,281,591). The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant (1,736,728), making his first All-Star Game start, and the Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony (1,299,849) are the starting forwards. The Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming gets the nod at center (1,146,426). NBA Commissioner David Stern will select a replacement for Yao, who is injured with a stress fracture in his left ankle.

Jan 27

Hedo Turkoglu and comfort

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Via Fran Blinebury of NBA.com:

After [Hedo] Turkoglu was the second-best player on the Magic team that lost in the 2009 NBA Finals to the Lakers, there was every reason to saddle up the old gang and let them take another shot again last season. But there were $53 million worth of reasons why it didn’t happen, the size of the free agent five-year contract that Orlando wasn’t willing to offer and Turkoglu got in Toronto. […]

Of course, a bigger version of the same accusation could have been made of the Magic, who blew up the best team in the history of their franchise in the name of fiscal restraint and managing the budget down the line when they were maybe standing on the doorstep of their first championship.

General manager Otis Smith has since admitted his mistake, albeit with a mountain of caveats. Though what really matters now is that Turkoglu returned to Orlando on Dec. 18, the day Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas also arrived in a declaration that shouted the future is now and the Magic have gone 13-6 (.684) since.

“I was disappointed and hurt when our Finals team traded away Hedo and Courtney Lee,” said center Dwight Howard. “I thought that was an awesome team that deserved another chance.”

As perhaps the last remaining dominant center in the league, Howard missed not only Turkoglu’s ballhandling skills and make big shots in key situations, but also his ability to make the entry pass into the low post.

“A 6-10 guy who knows right where I like it and can get it there? Yeah, I was glad to see him back,” Howard said.

Dwight Howard’s quotes are telling and reveal, in a way, his feelings about Vince Carter.

Jan 26

Recap: Orlando Magic 111, Indiana Pacers 96

AP Photo/Michael Conroy

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 111-96, getting back in the win column after losing to the Detroit Pistons on Monday. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as six players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard led the way for Orlando with 19 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Howard befuddled Roy Hibbert defensively, holding him to four points and two rebounds in roughly 15 minutes of action. With Howard able to shut down the Pacers’ lone threat in the low post, they had to rely on a perimeter attack that couldn’t muster enough offense to overcome Hibbert’s lack of production. Yes, Indiana was able to make a game of it at times throughout the evening, but the Magic’s firepower offensively was too overwhelming. In total, Orlando was able to make 16 three-pointers, two short of their season-high. Jason Richardson finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu had an efficient outing, putting up 18 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), seven rebounds, and four assists. Ryan Anderson contributed with 14 points. Jameer Nelson had 12 points, while J.J. Redick chipped in with 10 points. Lights out three-point shooting by Orlando was the difference in the game, when it all comes down to it.

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