Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
5-12 FG | 9-16 FT | 8 BLK | 16 REB | 19 PTS | +9
He’ll never admit it publicly, but Howard has been taking off plays and coasting in games this season on defense. That was never more evident than against the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Howard suddenly played like the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the second half after going half-speed in the first and second quarters. He’s at his best when he’s dominating on the weak-side defensively.
5-14 FG | 2-6 3P | 1 AST | 8 REB | 17 PTS | +14
It says a lot about Anderson’s skill-set at this point that him putting up 17 points and eight rebounds comes as no surprise. He did what he does well. He made three-pointers, he got to the free-throw line, and he attacked the offensive glass (perhaps his most underrated skill). It’s unlikely he’ll get any consideration for the All-Star Game but that’s the level he’s been playing at after 22 games.
7-12 FG | 3-4 3P | 1 AST | 4 REB | 19 PTS | +19
Taking two games off to rest his sore knee did wonders for Richardson. He looked as lively as he’s ever been during the regular season, and it’s no coincidence that he has one of his best games so far this season. His greatest asset is his three-point shooting and when that shot is falling, as it did against the Cavaliers, he makes a positive impact for the Magic.
7-12 FG | 2-5 3P | 4 AST | 7 REB | 18 PTS | +12
Turkoglu had that patented step-back jumper going for him all night against Cleveland. In that regard, Turkoglu’s game is very predictable because you know what he’s going to do with the basketball in his hands. He likes to that take dribble to his left, then fire away. He also got things going in 3/5 pick-and-roll sets with Howard in crunch time. Also very predictable.
For three quarters, the Cavaliers couldn’t do much of anything. With Howard patrolling the paint, it made it especially difficult for Cleveland to attack the rim with any consistent success. For the game, the Cavaliers went 18-of-39 at the rim (46.2 percent). But Ramon Sessions and Alonzo Gee caught fire for Cleveland in the fourth quarter and made things interesting at the end.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
There’s a lot of things going wrong for the Orlando Magic right now.
After starting the regular season with a record of 11-4, the Magic have lost five of their last six games with no end in sight. Orlando was in a similar funk last season, when they lost eight of nine games before general manager Otis Smith pulled the trigger and traded for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu in two separate trades. This time around, it’s only a matter of time until Dwight Howard is the one involved in a trade.
My how things have changed so quickly.
Magic Basketball discuss the Magic’s recent free-fall.
The Magic have lost 5 of their last 6 games. What’s happened?
Nate Drexler: Guys like Anderson, Redick and Turkoglu got worse while J-Rich and Jameer didn’t get any better. It was only a matter of time before the hot shooting would end. Look, this team is uninspired, and struggles to just maintain possession much less get a good shot. Roster issues have all but suffocated this team to death.
Danny Nowell: When the Magic were winning, it was because everything that could go right was, and the odds weren’t good on everything continuing to click at once. WIth so thin a bench, and players as mercurial as Hedo leading the way, every player who was contributing had to play nearly flawlessly all the time.
Matt Scribbins: Orlando’s ridiculously poor play coincided with a stretch where they started to face better competition. Mix in incessant rumors about the best player on the team leaving town and you have a recipe for a disaster. In this case, the Magic followed the recipe exactly.
Jameer Nelson is having the worst season of his career. What’s happened?
Drexler: Jameer is a far cry from 2009. He is playing with no command, no spunk, no energy, and no confidence. He used to have this chip on his shoulder and would put himself in situations where he could absolutely kill you in the pick and roll. Now he has a hard time staying on his feet, much less throwing good passes.
Nowell: Loath as I am to do so, it’s hard to contribute Nelson’s play to anything but mental disarray. He’s shooting badly, yes, but also playing less aggressively, throwing flaccid passes and generally seeming done. In potentially related news, Dwight’s less-than-subtle public hints about his teammates’ talent are becoming more and more frequent.
Scribbins: I’m most interested in these three things: his turnover percentage is way up, his free-throw percentage is way down, and his rebounding percentage is way down. Those areas seem like they are tied closely to effort and focus. Has all of the attention on Dwight leaving town been too much for Jameer to handle?
Glen Davis is also having the worst season of his career. What’s happened?
Drexler: Down in Orlando he can’t get his game going in the post as Dwight is always going to be there, his game from 15-18 feet is not as good when it’s the only weapon he has, and frankly he seems a bit unhappy to have arrived on a roster where basically no one gives a flying fart what is happening.
Nowell: Davis’ skill set was never such that he was going to fit well in Orlando. The Celtics, with their diversity of skills and flexibility, could absorb Davis’ inefficiencies while benefitting from his defense. On the Magic, though, Davis’ mid-range inaccuracy and tendency to try and create himself shots aren’t masked by a broader fit within the team context.
Scribbins: Last year, Big Baby played significant minutes on a team with a handful of future Hall of Famers. This season, he is playing fewer minutes on a team whose lone future Hall of Famer is about to leave. Plus, there was a debate before the season about who should start between Davis and Anderson. Um, that debate is settled forever.
AP Photo/Mike Carlson
6-12 FG | 4-8 FT | 1 BLK | 16 REB | 16 PTS | -25
It’s true that Howard has won the Defensive Player of the Year award in three consecutive seasons. It’s also true that Kevin Garnett is a former Defensive Player of the Year award winner. And for Garnett, despite being 35 years old, he reminded everyone that he still has it defensively. Howard struggled to score against Garnett, allowing the Boston Celtics to stay at home on the Magic’s shooters.
5-12 FG | 1-4 3P | 3 STL | 0 REB | 13 PTS | +1
After scoring 10 points in the first quarter, Richardson did next to nothing for Orlando the remainder of the game. He went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line in the third quarter, made a layup shortly thereafter, and that was it. When the Magic were in desperate need of some offense, Richardson was unable to deliver. Given that Richardson isn’t much of a shot creator, that should come as no surprise.
5-12 FG | 1-2 3P | 1 AST | 4 REB | 12 PTS | +8
In the first quarter, Anderson had 12 points. When he found himself being defended by Pierce, Anderson was able to take him off the dribble twice for a layup and also shoot over him for a midrange jumpshot. Near the end of the period, Anderson made a three-pointer that put the finishing touches on a great start to the game for Orlando. That was the last time he scored.
3-10 FG | 2-5 3P | 7 AST | 5 REB | 10 PTS | -7
Turkoglu really didn’t do much to help the Magic’s cause against the Celtics. In the fourth quarter, when Orlando needed to rely on him, Turkoglu had trouble generating offense for himself. This was no better exemplified than when Brandon Bass found himself defending Turkoglu one-on-one with the shot clock winding down. Turkoglu’s jumper was blocked by Bass. It was just one of those nights for Turkoglu.
Boston gave up 58 points at halftime, had a 21-point deficit heading into the third quarter, and they won. Remember when the Magic, no matter what, would almost always lose to the Detroit Pistons for several seasons a few years back? And it didn’t matter who was wearing a Pistons uniform? It’s become more than obvious that the Celtics have taken up the mantle of being that team.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.