Orlando Magic 112, Washington Wizards 103

There was a lot to like on offense tonight — Dwight Howard and Mickael Pietrus posting career highs in assists and a 43.5 offensive rebounding percentage, for instance — but the team’s effort on defense was weak. Watching the game, you could sense the Magic’s lethargy. They wanted to get in and get out, and they figured the East’s worst team would simply go away. Instead, we saw the Wizards scrapping and clawing their way into the game several times — the Magic saw double-digit leads go away in the second, third and fourth quarters. After a pretty quiet start, Dwight Howard came into the second half as motivated as I’ve ever seen him on defense. He finished the game with five blocks, three goaltending calls, numerous dirty looks and a technical foul. A lot of his anger was geared toward the refs, but Howard’s tenacity helped ease some of his teammate’s deficiencies on defense. Antawn Jamison used Rashard Lewis on Friday night, collecting 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting. JJ Redick played slightly better defense than I could have. But that’s enough of the bad defense, let’s move on. WHAT MP COULD BE With Hedo Turkoglu out, Mickael Pietrus shined. Pietrus totaled 21 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks. He made five of 10 3-pointers and went 8-of-14 from the field. In a less-than-30-second sequence in the second quarter, Pietrus blocked a Nick Young jumper, found Tony Battie for an open lay-up after knifing through the defense, and hit a 3-pointer with a hand in his face. He scored on tip-ins on two consecutive possessions a few minutes later. His offensive rebound in the final minute sealed the game. It’s the type of game that gets Magic fans excited about what Pietrus could be. Will he ever realize his potential? We’ll touch on that early next week. PASSING OUT OF THE POST Yes, it came against the worst big-man tandem in the history of the NBA, but we saw a little bit of what the Magic can be when Dwight Howard is passing well out of the post. Howard registered a career-high seven assists in the game. As the Wizards were constantly double-teaming, most of Howard’s assists went to open jump shooters. But a couple dishes to a cutting Mickael Pietrus showed some flashes of how Shaquille O’Neal has been finding slashers in the lane for years. Too often, the four guys stand around the 3-point line and wait for Howard to pass it to them after the double team. While it often produces an open jumper, sometimes the shots aren’t falling. Sometimes you have to take it to the hoop. I loved it on Friday night. QUICK START, SLOW FINISH Rashard Lewis shook off Wednesday night’s 0-for-9 performance quickly, hitting an open jumper on the game’s first possession. He scored nine of Orlando’s first 13 points. Lewis finished with 19 points on 6-of-14 from the field and 3-of-9 from deep. He was quiet in the second half, but he sunk a key 3-pointer in the final minutes. MAGIC’S BEST: There’s no doubt that it’s Pietrus, who played the best game of his Magic career. MAGIC’S WORST: Rashard Lewis played OK on offense, but 36 points to Antawn Jamison isn’t gonna cut it. DEFENDING DWIGHT: Washington sent the instant double-team from the opening tip-off, as Darius Songalia and Andray Blatche could do little to slow down the big guy. The Wizards cheated on the pass and collapsed on the dribble, and it came every time. We saw some triple teams when Howard would make his move toward the middle. TELLING STATISTIC: The Magic grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and missed 39 shots, meaning they rebounded almost half of their misses. Orlando’s ridiculous 49-32 rebounding advantage was a big reason they were able to pull this game out.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily