- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “An MRI today showed that Glen Davis suffered no structural damage when he hurt his right knee Sunday night, team spokesman Joel Glass said. Davis mildly hyperextended the knee and his availability for tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers is being called a gametime decision.”
- Much of Daniel Orton’s NBA career has been spent off the court after missing all of last season rehabbing from knee surgery. Which should make tonight especially satisfying for him, given that he’ll be in the starting lineup for the first time in his career.
- Everyone that played in last night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers contributed to the win for the Orlando Magic.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy on why he chose to play Chris Duhon over Ish Smith against the Cavaliers: “I loved the way that Ish had played. He still may play a role here. When we’re struggling, I wanted to go back to veteran guys. I think Ish penetrates the ball very well — maybe better than Chris right now — but I think we get better organization on the floor with Chris, which helps the other guys play well.”
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “With Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis all out, you have to wonder if the Magic can win another game this season. Actually, you don’t, because they play the Bobcats next Wednesday. But a 1-5 finish is a distinct possibility, and a loss to Philly on Monday would put the Sixers just two games back for sixth.”
- Marc Stein of ESPN.com has similar concerns about the Magic’s playoff positioning with Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glen Davis sidelined with injuries. Though Davis may play in tonight’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Injuries have decimated Orlando’s roster in recent weeks, which has put them in a precarious and fragile position heading into the playoffs.
- With the Magic reeling (falling from the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference to the No. 6 seed), they needed a win against Cleveland and got it.
- According to Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk, every team in the East is licking their chops and hoping they get a chance to play an injury-plagued Orlando team in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
- With a win against the Cavaliers, the Magic clinched a playoff berth for a sixth straight season (fifth straight under Van Gundy).
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Orlando is without Dwight Howard for most if not all of the rest of the way, so their trek gets the most difficult. That might not be a bad thing for Orlando, as they need to stay as far away from Boston, who has played them enough, with worse versions of their roster, to figure them out in short order. The Magic’s most likely, and best chance at advancing lies with a matchup against the Pacers.”
- Has Andrew Bynum surpassed Dwight as the NBA’s best center? There’s a real argument this season that he has and possibly for the future, too.
AP Photo/Mark Duncan
Ask any Magic fan and he or she will probably tell you the same thing. The Orlando Magic have been in existence for 23 seasons and this has likely been the craziest season of them all.
We all know about “The Indecision.”
We all know about the ongoing saga between Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy.
We all know about Ishsanity (I’m only half-kidding).
But one of the real kickers of this season for the Magic has been the slew of injuries the team has had to absorb. Nearly every player in Van Gundy’s rotation has missed games due to injury, with Dwight (herniated disk in lower back) and Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) the latest to join the injured list. That’s one of the reasons why Orlando has slid down to the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference after being in line to clinch the No. 3 seed for most of the regular season. Players just keep getting hurt.
Which is why it feels like the Magic have practically become desensitized to injuries. Case and point. No more than seven minutes into Orlando’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Glen Davis hyperextended his right knee after trying to make an offensive rebound putback following a missed layup. Rather than get down and out that Davis got hurt, Daniel Orton filled in admirably for him in his absence and the Magic won handily against the Cavaliers.
Granted, with Cleveland missing Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao — their two best players — to injury, they played like nothing more than a glorified D-League team at times. So it wasn’t asking much from Orlando to beat the Cavaliers without Davis in addition to Dwight and Turkoglu.
That said, it was impressive that the Magic won a game that was never really close from the get-go without Dwight, Turkoglu, and Davis. And it was doubly impressive that Orton stepped up to the plate for Orlando and played well in the first game of his career playing extended minutes.
Before playing Cleveland, Orton had played only 45 minutes this season in spot duty and garbage time. Against the Cavaliers, however, Orton played in roughly 29 minutes — more than half of his season (and career) total.
So how did Orton look getting lengthy playing time against NBA-caliber competition?
Orton looked like he belonged. Perhaps more importantly, he looked comfortable on the court.
Remember that this is technically Orton’s rookie season, even though he was drafted last season, given that he spent all that time rehabbing from season-ending knee injury. But if you didn’t know that about Orton, you wouldn’t have thought he was a rookie out there against Cleveland.
It remains to be seen how good Orton will be, but he proved (albeit against lesser competition) that he can be a serviceable big man at the very least. He showed off his ability to be a pick-and-roll big man, both by setting screens and scoring on a layup on one possession or by drawing fouls on other possessions. His awareness on defense could improve, but the skills are there — he exhibited an uncanny ability to not only block shots but also use quick hands to accumulate steals. Lastly, his rebounding could have been better but the jury is still out on whether or not that is an actual deficiency in his skill-set.
Nevertheless, with all the talk about the Magic needing a back-up center, they may have found one in Orton.
Talk about a turn of events. Fitting for how the season has gone for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
With the Cavaliers offering no resistance at the rim defensively, Nelson took advantage with a myriad of layups off the dribble. That helped fuel an efficient performance on offense from Nelson (21 points on 8-for-14 shooting from he floor).
With a win against Cleveland, despite no Dwight, no Turkoglu, and Davis leaving the game early due to injury (hyperextended right knee), the Magic clinched a playoff spot in the East.
Speaking of Davis, his injury forced rarely-used Orton to fill in for him at center. Playing extended minutes for the first time in his career, Orton did some nice things (11 points, four rebounds, five steals, and three blocks).
- Teams: Orlando Magic at Cleveland Cavaliers
- Date: Apr. 15, 2012
- Time: 6:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Quicken Loans Arena
- Magic: 34-25
- Cavaliers: 20-38
- Jameer Nelson
- J.J. Redick
- Jason Richardson
- Ryan Anderson
- Glen Davis
- Donald Sloan
- Anthony Parker
- Alonzo Gee
- Luke Harangody
- Tristan Thompson
- Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.6 (16th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 103.3 (11th of 30)
- Pace: 91.4 (15th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 101.6 (24th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 108.1 (26th of 30)
Read about the Cavaliers
AP Photo/John Raoux
With Dwight Howard out (herniated disk in lower back), it’s no surprise that the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic on Friday. The Hawks haven’t had much trouble defeating the Magic with Dwight for the past two seasons, so taking him out of the equation made Friday’s game a mere formality.
Case and point. This game was over in the first half. Atlanta held a 19-point lead at halftime largely due to the fact that they put together their best first quarter on offense this season, notching season-highs in points (36) and field goal percentage (75 percent).
With no Dwight, Orlando fell apart defensively against the Hawks. The Magic allowed way too much dribble penetration, which had a trickle-down effect as Atlanta was able to either attack the rim and score in the paint or create open looks on the perimeter. And when the Hawks weren’t busy puncturing holes in Orlando’s defense in half-court sets, they were getting out in transition and scoring in the open court.
The first quarter was a disaster for the Magic and it was simply a sign of things to come for the remainder of the game. Atlanta was nearly infallible against Orlando and it reflected not only on the scoreboard but in the box score as well.
For the game, the Hawks shot 50.6 percent from the floor, 40 percent from three-point range (14-for-35), and 93.8 percent from the free-throw line (15-for-16). As for the Magic? Their stat-line read: 38.8 percent from the floor, 21.4 percent (6-for-28) from three-point range, and 64.3 percent (9-for-14) from the free-throw line. Now you can plainly see why Orlando got blown out.
The Magic just couldn’t hit shots offensively. Part of it was Atlanta’s defense, yes, but part of it was Orlando having a bad shooting night. Ryan Anderson was a prime example, as he missed routine putbacks on offensive rebounds and numerous wide-open looks behind the three-point line.
All in all, it was a bad performance from the Magic in all facets.
Plus, with word that Dwight is done for the remainder of the regular season, as he tries to rest and rehab a herniated disk in his lower back (originally diagnosed as back spasms before Dwight got a second opinion), this already nightmarish season has gotten worse for Orlando.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
It’s hard to really pinpoint one guy, as nearly everyone for the Hawks played well against the Magic. This was an old-fashioned butt-whooping and Atlanta did it collectively, not so much with strong individual efforts.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
The old adage of “when Jameer Nelson goes, so goes Orlando” is accurate but the same could be probably said of Anderson. He’s an excellent barometer of the Magic’s success. When Anderson struggles, so does Orlando.
- Teams: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic
- Date: Apr. 13, 2012
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Amway Center
- Hawks: 34-24
- Magic: 34-24
- Jeff Teague
- Kirk Hinrich
- Joe Johnson
- Josh Smith
- Zaza Pachulia
- Jameer Nelson
- J.J. Redick
- Jason Richardson
- Ryan Anderson
- Glen Davis
- Pace: 89.9 (22nd of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 103.7 (18th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 101.2 (6th of 30)
- Pace: 89.1 (28th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.9 (15th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 103.1 (11th of 30)
Read about the Hawks
- With his back still bothering him, Dwight Howard has flown to Los Angeles to get a second opinion. He is not expected to play Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers or Monday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
- In a one-on-one interview with Hannah Storm of ESPN, Dwight denies asking for head coach Stan Van Gundy to be fired — this season at least: “Have I said it before? Ahh … being upset, yeah, I’ve said it, you know, but I’ve always come back and said I’ll do a better job, I’ll take more of a hit, I’ll lead better, I’ll do everything I can to get better.”
- Dwight on the past year: “The only thing I could probably say that I could have done better is probably just keep my mouth shut more.”
- Bill Simmons of Grantland wants to see the Boston Celtics play the Orlando Magic in the first round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Why? According to Simmons, “What better way to send Howard packing?”
- Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie sums it up succinctly (and perfectly) regarding what Dwight said to Storm in his ESPN interview about wanting head coach Stan Van Gundy fired: “So … Dwight Howard did say to somebody in management that he wanted Stan Van Gundy fired. He just didn’t do it, like, recently.”
- Jason Richardson describing what this season has been like for him compared to the 2007 “We Believe” season with the Golden State Warriors: “Crazier than any year that I’ve been a part of. That’s a different crazy. This is insane crazy.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk with the lay of the land when it comes to the Magic’s playoff seeding: “The Magic are tied with the Hawks for the 5/6 seeds in the East, so Friday night is a crucial game. Although right now you may want to be the 6 seed and face Indiana in the first round and not the 5 seed that draws the red-hot Celtics.”
- If Dwight can’t fully recover from his back injury before the postseason begins, then Orlando is in a heap of trouble.
- When Dwight put up 45 points and 23 rebounds against the Warriors on January 12, he had one of the top individual performances in the NBA this season.
- Is Lil’ Penny making a comeback to promote the Nike Air Penny 5? “Sources” say (also known as Penny Hardaway and Chris Rock) there’s a good chance of it happening!
- Andrew Sharp of SB Nation doesn’t believe a word that Dwight says.
There’s a certain fetishism with back-up players. For whatever reason, sports fans like to root for the underdog or unsung player on their favorite team.
Last season, there were people within the Magic fanbase asking for head coach Stan Van Gundy to start Gilbert Arenas over Jameer Nelson at point guard or to #FreeEarlClark. The problem, more often than not, is that the back-up player in question isn’t better than the starter he’s replacing or he’s not good enough to warrant more playing time. That was the case for Arenas and Clark last season.
Arenas wasn’t better than Nelson and he rarely played well enough for it to make sense for him to take on a bigger role, while Clark was just never good enough to earn a permanent spot in Van Gundy’s rotation. Especially when you consider that Clark was playing behind Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson. In Clark’s case this season, not only is he playing behind Anderson and Glen Davis but he’s proven that he’s a bad player and probably more suited for the D-League at this stage in his career.
However, there are instances in which a back-up player deserves a chance to play more. Like Ish Smith.
It’s no secret that Magic fans have grown tired of Chris Duhon, originally brought in by general manager Otis Smith last season to back-up Jameer Nelson at point guard. Make no mistake, Duhon was terrible — he turned the ball over way too much, showed a hesitancy to shoot the basketball, and dragged the pace down for the Orlando Magic. Eventually, Arenas replaced Duhon as the back-up point guard. Arenas wasn’t any better, though. This season, Duhon has been better, showing a renewed confidence in his shot, which has reflected in his numbers. But Duhon is still dealing with turnovers and he continues to play at a snail’s pace, which is undermining his ability to make a positive impact in games despite his improved shooting and efficiency on offense.
With Smith showing flashes of competency whenever he’s had a chance to play this season for the Magic, Duhon’s days serving as the back-up point guard appeared to be numbered. And they might be, given that Smith has taken over as the back-up point guard to Nelson for the time being.
So what has Smith done to convince head coach Stan Van Gundy to give him a shot?
Smith has been assertive and aggressive offensively, while also taking care of the ball. In essence, he’s been almost the exact opposite of Duhon.
One of the first things that jumps off the page about Smith? He’s fast. The Washington Wizards found that out for themselves on Tuesday. On this possession, after Jordan Crawford missed a three-pointer on the left wing, Smith retrieves the long rebound and is off to the races. The Wizards are about to encounter a one-man fastbreak.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
With all the turmoil and confusion in Orlando at this point, a balm for the unsettled fan might be to turn to the postseason. No more griping about drama. No more blame game for defensive lapses and offensive droughts. What’s important is what happens when the playoffs begin. And guess what?
Orlando is going to the playoffs!
Regardless of how good or bad you think this Magic team is, the bigger question about the future is who the Magic will play in the first round?
Right now in the Eastern Conference, Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando are tied at 34-24 in the standings, with the Indiana Pacers ahead of the aforementioned trio by 2 games with a record of 36-22. However, because the Celtics lead the Atlanta Division, they automatically are a top-four seed in the East and currently sit at the No. 4 seed. As for the Hawks, because they will win the season series against the Magic regardless of Friday’s outcome, they hold the tiebreaker advantage if both teams finish with the same record at the end of the regular season. Which means, for the moment, Atlanta and Orlando are the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds respectively.
And make no mistake about it, the difference between facing Atlanta and facing Boston in the first round is profound if the chips fall a certain way for the Magic.
- When he’s gotten playing time, Ish Smith has impressed the coaching staff for the Orlando Magic with his quickness and playmaking ability.
- The Magic may be the No. 6 seed right now in the Eastern Conference, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Orlando would be slated to face off against the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs and have a favorable matchup in that series.
- Dwight Howard lifts the spirits of a paralyzed boy.
- Could the Magic have their sights set on Donnie Walsh as a person that could possibly take a front office position within the organization?
- Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog: “The two men responsible for Lil’ Penny will be reuniting for the first time Thursday, when Rock is a guest on the Bottom Line Sports Show, an Internet radio show that Hardaway executive produces and occasionally appears on alongside the show’s regular host and founder, Gerald Brown. Despite having been linked through the Lil’ Penny character for nearly 20 years, Hardaway and Rock have spent little time together as their parts in the commercials were filmed separately.”
- Orlando struggled against the Washington Wizards without Dwight.
- Dwight will likely make his return to the court on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. Dwight could have played against the Wizards, but the Magic didn’t want to rush him back.
- Washington’s Kevin Seraphin had a career-night against Orlando.
- Fran Blinebury of NBA.com is looking forward to the next sequel in “Dwight & Stan’s Excellent Adventure.”
- Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com: “GM Otis Smith is as dead a duck as Coach Stan Van Gundy. Only question is whether Dwight stays — for a season — to break in the new guys.”
- Tom Ziller of SB Nation: “The Magic need just four more wins to clinch a playoff berth, as they currently sit 5.5 games ahead of the No. 9 Bucks. With less than 10 games remaining, this shouldn’t be an issue.”
- Dwight is selected for John Hollinger’s all-defensive team at ESPN Insider. However, Dwight is on the second team. Behind Tyson Chandler. Considering the drop-off in performance from Dwight defensively this season and given how much Chandler has changed not only the New York Knicks’ defense but culture, it makes sense.