Things started out slow for the Orlando Magic against the Washington Wizards in last night’s game. The Magic were up only six against the Wizards at halftime but the action picked up in the second half, as J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, and the rest of the bench for Orlando put on a show for the hometown fans in one of the last games at Amway Arena.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
There isn’t much the Orlando Magic have to play for after winning the Southeast Division title for a third consecutive season and locking up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference … aside from having the chance to catch the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings, of course, in hopes of earning home-court advantage if the two teams meet in the NBA Finals once again. So, it’s no surprise that the Magic mucked around here and there in tonight’s game. Against the Washington Wizards, Orlando got away with it and won by the score of 121-94. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, with seven players scoring in double-figures. Dwight Howard finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick each pitched in with 16 of Orlando’s season-high 65 points off the bench. Mike Miller, a former Magic player, had 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists for the Wizards.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Dwight Howard is a better defensive center than Bill Russell. Matt Guokas, the color analyst on Orlando Magic telecasts on Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida, said that on the air last week and I wrote a column about it over the weekend. As you might expect I have been getting hammered by readers and blogs all over the country for this basketball blasphemy; for even suggesting that there’s a chance Howard may be better than the iconic legend of the Boston Celtics. [...] Guokas, an astute observer and student of the game, is a former NBA player and coach who actually played against Russell. This is not to say Guokas’s opinion is right, but his opinion is much more credible than the opinion of many of critics who have e-mailed me to tell me how stupid Guokas is for saying what he said and how idiotic I am for writing a column about it. I’m willing to bet that 95 percent of those e-mailers never saw Russell play a single game.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Every Magic player went through shootaround this morning at RDV Sportsplex, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, so minor bumps to Magic guards Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson and Anthony Johnson won’t be an issue when the Magic take on the Washington Wizards tonight at 7 p.m. What will be an issue is the Magic’s ability to stay focused and take some momentum into the playoffs. With just five games remaining on the schedule, Orlando has clinched the second seed in the Eastern Conference and clinched the Southeast Division.”
- Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on the Magic clinching the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus looks at the five best and worst teams in the NBA “in terms of fewest marginal dollars spent for each marginal win. The statistic, derived from the one pioneered at Baseball Prospectus for the MLB by the late Doug Pappas, measures how much teams are spending above the NBA’s salary floor (75 percent of the cap) for each win above what a replacement-level team could muster.” Unlike last year, the Magic are not an economically efficient team this year.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The Southeast Division all theirs and the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics no longer a concern in the standings, the Orlando Magic now have their sights set on trying to catch the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Magic clinched their third consecutive Southeast Division title Tuesday night when the Hawks lost to the Charlotte Bobcats. It also guarantees that the Magic (54-23) will enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
If the playoffs started today, the Magic would face the seventh-seeded Charlotte Bobcats (41-36). The Michael Jordan-owned Bobcats are two games back of Miami (43-34) for sixth and three games ahead of Toronto (38-39) in eighth. The Magic are 3-1 against Charlotte this season.
Another division title is nice and the Orlando Magic should be commended for becoming Southeast Division champions for a third straight year, especially with the Atlanta Hawks on their heels for the majority of the regular season. But it can’t be understated how important it was for the Magic to enter the postseason with the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference so that they didn’t have to run the gauntlet, meaning not having home-court advantage against either the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series, for a second consecutive season in hopes of making a return trip to the NBA Finals.
Additionally, the fact that it’s looking more and more like the Charlotte Bobcats — not the Miami Heat — will be Orlando’s likely first round opponent, the bracket is shaping up nicely for the Magic. Now, the Bobcats will be a challenge but the Heat would have been a nightmare. Especially with Dwyane Wade presenting himself as the ultimate wildcard, a player that can win a series by himself. So, barring something weird happening, Orlando dodges a bullet there.
One last thing to look out for in the East is the race for the No. 3 seed between the Hawks and the Celtics. The Magic are a combined 6-2 against Atlanta and Boston, but there’s no doubt that Orlando has a preference between the two teams. And that’s the Hawks, a team that doesn’t matchup well with the Magic. In contrast, for all their consternation, the Celtics still pose as a threat.
Nevertheless, it should be interesting to see how things pan out before the playoffs start.
Via the Orlando Magic:
With just a few regular season home games remaining and the Orlando Magic moving into Amway Center next season, the team is celebrating some of the greatest moments in Amway Arena history. To commemorate the last regular season in Amway Arena, the Orlando Magic are announcing a week-long tribute beginning Wednesday, April 7 leading up to the Magic’s last regular season home game on April 14.
To kick-off the celebration, the Magic will be giving away a commemorative poster that highlights the events that have come through Amway Arena to the first 3,000 fans at the game on Wednesday, April 7 vs. the Washington Wizards (7 p.m. tip-off).
On Friday, April 9 when the Magic face New York (7 p.m. tip-off), the team will give away another commemorative poster, which celebrates the best NBA/Magic moments in Amway Arena to the first 3,000 fans in attendance.
Fans in attendance at the April 7 or April 9 games will be treated to a video feature during the game highlighting moments at Amway Arena.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic shooting guard Vince Carter tweaked his tender right big toe during Tuesday afternoon’s practice. But Carter told me a few minutes ago that the injury is not serious and said that he’ll be able to play Wednesday against the Washington Wizards. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy originally told reporters that Carter had “tweaked” an ankle during the practice and sat out the end of the workout. But Carter clarified that he had tweaked his toe and not his ankle. Carter said he aggravated the toe when Ryan Anderson stepped on on his foot during practice.”
- Orlando Magic television color analyst Matt Guokas has set the internet ablaze after stating on a recent telecast that Dwight Howard is a better defender than Bill Russell. Here’s what Guokas told me via e-mail (note: I cleaned up the message): “Dwight’s pick and roll defense is the best I’ve seen. Back in the 50’s and 60’s there wasn’t the discipline in running offenses, nor was there spacing involved because of the three-point line. Help and recover is more of a factor now. Bill was a deceptively strong individual defender against Wilt, even though Wilt put up big numbers. And Russell guarded the paint extremely well and kept his approximate eight blocks a game in play for the most part.”
- Sometimes it feels like the “Heart and Hustle” era is overlooked in Magic history. No problem. Orlando Pinstriped Post has you covered by unveiling a tee “celebrating the fan-favorite 1999/2000 ‘Heart and Hustle’ Orlando Magic squad that won 41 games despite having a roster full of castoffs, rookies, and journeymen as the front-office prepared to clear salary for the 2000 Free Agency period.”
- The NBA has gone green this week and Orlando is at the forefront of the movement, as Kyle Stack of SLAM ONLINE describes: “Orlando is constructing Amway Center, which they hope will become LEED certified. It will be designed to use 20 percent less energy and 40 percent less water than arenas of a similar size. They will run a compact florescent lightbulb giveaway Apr. 7 for the arena’s first 500 fans. The fans will receive a voucher upon entry and can exchange it for a lightbulb outside the arena starting in the third quarter.”
- Dwight Howard explains his pre-game routine.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider lists Howard on his All-Defensive First Team and tabs him as the Defensive Player of the Year: “I was down on Howard earlier this season, as I didn’t think he was moving particularly well in the first half of the season. All that’s changed since about Christmas, however, and Howard is back to his dominating ways. So are the Magic, who rank a close second to Charlotte in defensive efficiency despite a roster laden mostly with offensive players. The reason, of course, is Howard, who patrols the middle with his breathtaking shot-blocking ability, dominates the defensive glass, helps his guards on the perimeter and nullifies opposing breaks with his speed back down the court. It would be nice if he’d block a few more shots to his teammates rather than going for volleyball spikes into the 10th row, but as long as we’re comparing him to current players rather than Bill Russell, Howard is easily the cream of the crop.”
- Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer states why the Magic are as dangerous as ever, specifically against the Cleveland Cavaliers: “Orlando went through a miserable period just after Jan. 1 where they lost seven of nine games as their defense lagged, Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson struggled and Dwight Howard wasn’t impacting games. As is his style, coach Stan Van Gundy had a series of meltdowns and issued a series of venomous challenges to his team. Basically, they listened. Since mid-January, the Magic have gotten back to the active defense that was just as much of a bedrock as their 3-point shooting in the run to the Finals last year.”
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic announces their participation in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Green Week 2010 which tipped-off on April 1 and will run through April 9. The NBA will partner with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on its efforts.
To recognize NBA Green Week 2010, the Orlando Magic will be hosting a “Green Night” on Wednesday, April 7 during the Magic vs. Washington matchup. Orlando’s “Green Night” activities on April 7 to include:
- A voucher/pledge card distribution to the first 500 fans for two compact fluorescent light bulbs redeemable outside Amway Arena’s north side starting in the third quarter of the April 7 contest.
- “Green Tips” displayed on the jumbotron throughout game.
- Players to wear adidas shooting shirts featuring a green logo (done during all games throughout Green Week).
- Recycling awareness videos featuring STUFF the Magic mascot on the jumbtron.
- Waste Management’s (WM) 2010 Think Green Art Contest Winner, fifth-grader Anna Lam from Azalea Park Elementary, to be recognized pregame on-court with Magic Community Ambassadors Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw, STUFF and a WM representative. Her artwork illustrates the 3 R’s…reduce, reuse and recycle.
- The WM truck outside at Fan Fest displaying Anna Lam’s artwork.
- Continuing with the team’s “green sweep” in partnership with Waste Management to educate fans and encourage them to recycle in games.
The Orlando Magic continues a company-wide green initiative, which is punctuated by having the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified designed and constructed professional basketball arena. Other on-going Orlando Magic green activities include: an in-game recycling program with Waste Management and an Orlando Magic front office recycling program; a continued partnership with “Rock and Wrap it Up” to take leftover food after Magic games and deliver to shelters and food banks; an environmentally-friendly digital version of the team magazine, Magic Magazine produced monthly.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Via the Orlando Magic:
Orlando’s “magic number” to clinch the Southeast Division title is 1 … which means an Orlando win OR an Atlanta loss will give the Magic their third straight division title. It will also secure the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference during the upcoming 2010 NBA Playoffs.
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “After a string of very public arguments with, among others, coach Stan Van Gundy over playing time and a random fan in San Antonio, it seemed only a matter of time before Matt Barnes’ temper impacted a game. Van Gundy said he hoped Barnes would take his ejection from Sunday’s game as a “wake up call.” Barnes was contrite and apologized to his teammates. “Apology accepted,” Vince Carter said, smiling. The truth is, his teammates don’t want him to change.”
- Henry Abbott of TrueHoop: “[...] there’s sure to be more excitement in the season’s final week-and-a-half. The conference’s top three teams, after all the tie-breakers, are the Lakers, Mavericks and Nuggets, and they’re doing their best to keep things interesting. Over their last 10 games, they have combined to create a tepid 16-14 record. (And even the Lakers, who are a cinch for first in the West with 22 losses, are still fighting for homecourt advantage in the Finals against Orlando, which has 23 losses. Every team is still trying.)
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post comments on the relationship between the Orlando Magic and the referees: “Orlando’s playing well, but has been chirping about foul calls a lot more lately. Though the Magic responded after Barnes’ ejection yesterday, there’s also the chance that they could let their anger get the best of them in another pressure-packed situation, which could indeed hurt them in the playoffs, especially on the road. That might explain why Van Gundy is a bit concerned, particularly with Barnes. Then again, maybe playing so emotionally is a good thing, as it prevents the team from coasting, which in turn could explain why Barnes’ teammates don’t want him to change.”
- Dwight Howard looks back at the Magic’s ‘steel cage match’ with the Memphis Grizzlies in last night’s game: “That Barnes-Thabeet cage match went pretty well for us. Matt got kicked out of the cage and sent to the locker room, but at the end of the night we won the Royal Rumble. The Big Show (me) didn’t get a T. Ric Flair (Vince Carter) got a T. And Hulk Hogan (Matt) got kicked out of the steel cage match. Matt apologized to us after the game, but we all understood where he was coming from because we don’t take too much of anything personally on this team. We actually enjoyed that little pushing match and it fired us up.”