Magic manhandle Lakers as Dwight Howard dominates
Hope remains! As it turns out, the Magic season is not dead. Just when you think that the Magic are just meddling in mediocrity, they come out and play some of their best basketball of the season and defeat the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
In front of a new franchise record 19,193 fans the Magic beat the Lakers by a final score of 89-75.
Dwight Howard reminded a national TV audience that he does indeed belong in the MVP discussion finishing the game with 31 points, 13 rebounds and 3 big blocks. His second half numbers were simply stunning as Dwight shot 9-9 from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line. When asked after the game if Dwight should be talked about more for MVP, Stan Van Gundy supported his All-Star passionately and pointed out that nobody impacts as many possessions per game than Dwight does.
For the Lakers, it was just a relatively flat night and they were unable to match the energy put forth by the Magic players. The Magic coaches pointed out that the Orlando players were actually tired coming into the time outs. Panting. God forbid they do that every night, right?
Kobe Bryant finished the game with only 17 points, 8 below his season average and most importantly for Orlando… attempted ZERO free throws. Look, it’s virtually impossible to stop great players from scoring. However, you can limit those opportunities by taking away the small things (i.e. free throws and layups). The Magic on-ball defense tonight was fantastic and it forced Kobe to settle for his MJ-esque fade away’s rather than drive the ball to the rim. It was the first time Kobe Bryant did not attempt a free throw since March 24th, 2010. The little things.
The defense wasn’t just strong on Kobe, it was on the entire Laker team. Stan spoke glowingly about the defense on all fronts, emphasizing that the individual defense was the best of the year and that the team defense was “very very good”. That defensive intensity is something that must become a constant if this Magic team is going to continue to grow and return to the discussion as championship contenders.
More news, notes, tidbits and info from tonight’s game:
- Besides Kobe not attempting a free throw, the biggest disappointment for Phil Jackson had to be the play of Pau Gasol. Pau is the piece of the Lakers that drives them from good to great. Unfortunately, for L.A. he wasn’t even good tonight… Actually, I’d call it “pedestrian”. He finished with 11 points on 5-12 shooting and grabbed only 4 rebounds in 35 minutes of play. Gasol seemed to be virtually invisible out there tonight.
- The other big man for the Lakers, Andew Bynum, started out strong and scored 9 points and pulled down 6 rebounds in the first quarter alone. In the second half, he didn’t fair as well… Scoring only 6 points and grabbing 2 rebounds. Someone named Dwight Howard may have had something to do with that.
- The one big negative for the Magic today was that they continue to turn the ball over far too much. They finished with 16 turnovers on the night with 6 of those coming from Dwight and 4 coming from Gilbert Arenas. Gil hasn’t done much since coming to town, but facilitating the ball has been one positive. However, turning the ball over 4 times in 19 minutes is simply unacceptable. Especially for a point guard.
- Brandon Bass returned today for the first time since January 31st and immediately made his presence felt. Although he didn’t start, he was forced into early action after Ryan Anderson got into foul trouble. While the stat line isn’t gorgeous (6 points, 8 rebounds), he played solid, smart defense.
- Dwight Howard’s double-double was his 44th of the season and it was also the ninth time this year that Dwight has scored more than 30 points in a game.
Final quote of the night comes from Stan Van Gundy, “We were start to finish today, we played much harder and much better. I think that shows us at least who we can be. Now what you have to get to is a consistency of that type of effort and intensity.”
The next chance for the Magic to show if this effort and intensity is for real will be on Wednesday night against the Washington Wizards (at home). Game time is set for 7pm.