- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Heart and Hustle is back [Orlando] Magic fans! In case you didn’t get the memo, two exciting plays from Orlando’s playoff victory Tuesday night provide documentation that there’s been a resurrection: J.J. Redick wrestling the ball away from Kirk Hinrich, and, while still on the floor zipping a pass to Jameer Nelson for a breakaway layup. And then, Nelson tugging with Hinrich for possession of the ball, setting up a Hedo Turkoglu layup. [...] Alrighty then, let’s celebrate. Or maybe just ponder a different perspective. Professional basketball players should do the heart and the hustle on every play. They are paid very handsomely to do these things, and many times, all it requires is a little extra effort. Unfortunately, sometimes the egos and the commercial endorsements get in the way, but an occasional floor burn is part of the collateral damage for playing at an elite level. But to a greater point, I’m wondering when the Magic officially transformed themselves into a underdog franchise, a bunch of scrappy guys overachieving, clawing and scratching for every victory?”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Rich DeVos, the 85-year-old owner of the Orlando Magic, gave GM Otis Smith permission to spend as much as he wanted after the team reached the NBA Finals in 2009. Almost two years later, the Magic are now one of the highest-paying teams in all of sports, even out-spending flashy European soccer teams and high-profile Major League Baseball teams with no salary cap restrictions. The Magic pay their players an average of $6,367,114 per year, a number only exceeded by Real Madrid and Barcelona of Spain’s top soccer league, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Lakers, according to a study by ESPN the Magazine.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The Orlando Magic have spent the better part of the last eight months together, either practicing, playing or working out almost every day since the voluntary sessions began in September. But still, even to this day, the players and coaches are learning things about one another and the makeup of this team. There was no greater teaching moment than Tuesday’s Game 2 when the Magic started poorly, trailed by as many as 10 points, struggled to make shots and ever so briefly seemed to be staring at a 0-2 hole. But it’s the way they responded – with J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson diving on the floor for loose balls, with Dwight Howard playing 48 minutes of dominant basketball, with Ryan Anderson giving up his body to take a charge and with Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson shrugging off poor games to make clutch plays late – that spoke volumes about the character of this Magic team. “
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Cavaliers dominated both games there while sweeping the Hawks in the second round in 2009. The Magic did the same last year, causing Hawks fans to boo the team and All-Star Joe Johnson, who further inflamed them by telling media the Hawks didn’t care if the fans showed up. Home attendance declined for the second consecutive season in 2010-11. There were more big crowds for marquee opponents, but a high percentage of spectators cheered for the visitors. It didn’t help that the Hawks suffered more blowout home losses than any winning team in NBA history, with three defeats by at least 30 points and three others by 20 or more. The Hawks’ home record slipped from 34-7 to 24-17 this season. Only the Knicks won fewer home games among playoff teams. Horford said some players were disappointed by the small and split crowds because they felt fan support didn’t match the team’s success.”
- Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks’ home record during the regular season was 24-17. That ranked 16th in the NBA. Many want to blame the lack of success on poor fan support. The problem with that theory is that the only playoff team with a worse home record than Atlanta this season was the Knicks (23-18), who are one of the best-supported teams in the league. [...] But Drew knows: Empty seats or booing fans or too many folks in the crowd pulling for the other team are not legitimate reasons for losing. Teams lose because they lack talent, or interest, or focus.”
As Blue and White Ignite for the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the Magic are encouraging the entire Central Florida community to show their spirit and support the Magic at the Official Playoff Watch Parties for Games 3 & 4 of the First Round on Friday, April 22 and Sunday, April 24, respectively.
Official Playoff Watch Party for Game 3: On Friday, April 22, the Magic will host an Official Playoff Watch Party at Waterford Lakes (near Barnie’s) at 8:00 p.m.
Official Playoff Watch Party for Game 4: On Sunday, April 24, the Magic will host an Official Playoff Watch Party at Colonial TownPark in Lake Mary (near Liam Fitzpatrick’s and Dexter’s) at 7:00 p.m.
Highlights of the Official Playoff Watch Parties will include:
- Large Outdoor Screen
- Appearances by the Orlando Magic Dancers
- Opportunity to win tickets to Game 5
- Bring a chair to enjoy the game!
Photo by Fernando Medina
Dwight Howard is the most valuable player for any team, and if you weren’t convinced in the regular season, take a look at his first two games of the postseason.
Dwight’s game has a gravitational pull to it. We have seen that throughout his career, but he is operating on a whole new level now.
The stats speak for themselves. Through two games, Dwight has posted 79 points and 38 rebounds. Since the merger of the ABA and NBA, he is only the fourth player to accomplish a 75/35 two-game span in the playoffs (the other players were Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). And only Elgin Baylor in 1961 amassed more points and rebounds in his first two playoff games than Dwight.
These dizzying comparisons only get compounded when you consider that this offensive output is coming from not just a “solid defensive player,” but the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Put differently, this means that a defensive specialist is doing an offensive specialist’s work. Sure, that’s what we expect from Dwight, but this is otherworldly.
That’s no surprise to Magic fans. It’s everyday conversation to talk about the way he enforces his will in the paint on both sides of the floor, but take a moment to soak in the excellence that we’re seeing from Dwight.
What we are witnessing is a man on a mission. Dwight is taking every element of his game, every characteristic that defines him, and magnifying it despite the underachieving “support” from the rest of the team.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Via Peter D. Newmann of ESPN Stats and Information:
The [Orlando] Magic offense has substantially changed from the regular season. Dwight Howard has been a beast. Orlando isn’t making their three-pointers. And their offensive efficiency has suffered.
regular season postseason Pts. per 100 possessions 105.7 98.9 Possessions per 48 minutes 93.5 91.5 Pct. of Pts. from three-pointers 28.4 18.2
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “If the Orlando Magic struggled to shoot the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in just one game, you could call it an aberration. If it happened twice, you could label that a mere coincidence. But the Magic’s continued offensive woes against the Hawks now have to be considered a pattern — a pattern that might force Orlando to change its identity on that end of the court just to escape the first round of these playoffs. [...] In three games against the Hawks since March 30 — one in the regular season and two in these playoffs — the Magic have made only 40.0 percent of their shots from the field and just 26.5 percent of their 3-point tries. Those woeful shooting numbers place even greater pressure on the Magic to avoid turnovers, rebound well and play strong defense. During the regular season, Orlando led the league in 3-pointers made per game (9.4) and 3-pointers attempted per game (25.6). Now, all of a sudden, those shots from beyond the arc just aren’t falling.”
- Jason Richardson stepped up when the Orlando Magic needed him to.
- Check out two key hustle plays that ignited the Magic’s win against the Atlanta Hawks.
- Tony Allen questions Dwight Howard‘s Defensive Player of the Year coronation.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “If one thing has become apparent to Howard and the Magic after two games of this first-round playoff series, it’s that nothing at all is going to be easy. That’s so unlike last spring, of course, when the Magic ransacked the Hawks in a four-game sweep by a historic 25 points a game on average. But with this series tied at 1-all heading into Friday’s Game 3 in Atlanta, it’s apparent that the Magic and Hawks will likely continue to make life tough for one another. [...] Nothing at all was easy about the Magic’s Game 2 victory that knotted the series. Orlando fell behind by 10 midway through the second quarter, shot the ball poorly all night and nearly squandered a 12-point lead late in the fourth quarter. Leading 78-76, point guard Jameer Nelson dived to save a ball from going out of bounds and fed it to Hedo Turkoglu, who eventually converted a layup to put the Magic up four. And seconds later, Jason Richardson took a feed from Turkoglu and capped another poor shooting night with a 3-point dagger that secured the victory for the Magic.”
- The Magic’s desire to play with energy and effort on defense returned in Game 2.
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “The Magic’s offense? Still missing. The Hawks’ matchup advantages? Still there (Josh Smith 17 points, Jamal Crawford 25 points). But the Magic reasserted some of their own with Jameer Nelson edging Kirk Hinrich (who couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a submarine in the middle of a deep-sea trench Tuesday night). But systemically the Magic got what they needed. The Hawks got their win in Orlando and now head back to Atlanta. System vs. Personnel. The battle continues. We’ve told you again and again. This one is going to be long and tough. And even in a loss, you have to wonder if the momentum doesn’t lie with Atlanta.”
- Dwight Howard had one of the lines of the night according to Shannon Booher of SLAM ONLINE: “That’s EVERY minute in case you didn’t know. Another dominating performance from the guy who received the L.O.N. M.V.P. vote. They almost blew this one, though, despite a seemingly uninspired (except for J-Creezy) effort from the Hawks. Seriously — Josh Smith and Joe Johnson — the Playoffs started a few days ago. Y’all are invited to participate. Special note to Josh — you are allowed to drive to the basket and utilize your insane physical gifts.”
- Does Orlando remind you of the Ohio State program in college basketball?
- Tracy Weissenberg of SLAM ONLINE matter-of-factly responds to Howard playing all 48 minutes against the Hawks: “Game 3 is Friday in Atlanta and Howard is lucky he has two days to rest.”
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “I’ve ripped coaches for extreme conservatism with foul trouble before, but what Larry Drew did Tuesday night in Orlando takes the cake. It may very well cost the Hawks the series. For those who didn’t see, Horford — Atlanta’s best player — picked up two fouls in the first 2:11 of the game, and Drew’s response was to sit him out for the ENTIRE FIRST HALF. This is straight out of the Larry Brown-Mike Woodson playbook, and Drew comes from that coaching tree, but I can’t emphasize enough what an irrational and counterproductive strategy this is. [...] There is no way to sugarcoat it: This is the most indefensible coaching decision I’ve seen this season. Horford played the entire second half and finished the game with — you guessed it — two fouls. This didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who watched the Hawks this season. Horford has one of the lowest foul rates in the league at his position — just 2.85 fouls per 40 minutes — so even if he had stayed in the game with the two fouls he was at virtually no risk of fouling out.”
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward is also wondering why head coach Larry Drew sat Horford.
- In case you haven’t heard, Howard has an injured right shoulder.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “The difference in the first two games of this series was less about adjustments and more about regression to the mean. While the Orlando Magic had more of a balanced offensive output than in Game One, when Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson got virtually no help from their teammates, the end result was about the same. In fact, the Magic scored fewer points per possession. However, the Atlanta Hawks were unable to replicate their hot Game One shooting, and the result was an Orlando victory that felt more resounding most of the second half.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “Dwight Howard was everywhere, and though Orlando’s perimeter defense improved somewhat, I’m handing most of the acclaim at Howard’s feet as he effectively closed off the mid-range that worked so well for the Hawks in Game 1. Jamal Crawford and Al Horford had their moments, but they weren’t anywhere near as effective from just inside the 3-point line as we saw on Saturday, and Howard’s ability to show and then get back on the glass is the reason why.”
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy thinks there’s a lack of hype surrounding Howard.