When the Magic play like they did in Wednesday night’s 122-100, it really feels like they can’t lose. The Suns, who were undefeated coming into this game, were simply dismissed from Amway Arena. Deadly shooting, precise ball movement, belligerent defense and hustle on the boards — that’s what this Magic team is made of. Following the team’s worst game of recent memory, the Magic played their best game of this young season. Forgive me if I compare tonight’s game to Tuesday night’s game more than once in this recap. Dwight Howard, despite another round of foul trouble, scored 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting. Ryan Anderson followed his 1-of-11 three-point performance Tuesday with 20 points on 8-of-14. Jameer Nelson posted 16 points and 10 assists. It’s difficult to find a Magic player who didn’t play well.
1. The Magic played aggressively on offense tonight. We didn’t see the same stagnant, standing-around offense that was on display Tuesday night. The Magic attacked the paint, whether it be through a pass into Howard or Nelson, Jason Williams or Matt Barnes knifing through the lane and finding an open shooter. The Magic scored 54 points in the paint (compared to 24 on Tuesday) and logged 16 fast-break points.
2. After a horrible shooting night, the shots were falling. The Magic chucked up a lot of threes — making 12 of 23 — and they were primarily good looks off assists. That’s when this team is at its best: penetrating and kicking, or penetrating and going at the rim. Key word: penetrating.
3. The Magic defended the screen-and-roll to perfection, and kept the Suns bottled up. The Magic did a fantastic job of staying home the shooters and defending the pick-and-rolls with the two on-ball defenders. If you can stop the Suns’ two-man game with only two defenders, their half-court offense sputters. Stan Van Gundy: “I thought we played them – and their pick and rolls in particular – better than we have played anybody’s pick and rolls all year. I thought it was our best defensive game. I thought we were more committed and made more good defensive plays, so I thought it was a good step forward.”
Against the Suns, he picked up two quick fouls and another technical foul, but fought through it after a stern halftime visit from General Manager Otis Smith. Smith told Howard to stop whining about the whistles, the soccer-like flopping by opponents and squash the Suns like a monster in a sci-fi movie. “I’m frustrated and the refs feed off that,” Howard said. “They know they can get me going. The other teams know that also. That’s the thing Otis told me at halftime. ‘Don’t let them frustrate you.’”
Another thing: the Magic’s defensive rebounding was a problem, particularly in the first half. A lot of the blame can be put on a number of long Suns’ rebounds, as they were shooting long-range shots before the defense was set. But not matter how you put it, 16 offensive rebounds allowed is too many.