Orlando Magic bounce back with convincing win over Phoenix Suns

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.

  • Three seconds

    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.”

  • What to like Nelson received plenty of criticism after Tuesday night’s game — most of it deserved, as he forced things, didn’t play within himself and finished with 7 points and 5 turnovers — so it was nice to see him reassert himself tonight with a tremendous all-around performance Matt Barnes (13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists) played really, really well, as did Ryan Anderson (20 points, 10 rebounds, 3-for-3 from 3). Anytime the Magic beat a good Western Conference team, even if it is on a back-to-back at home, you’re happy with it. And the fact that the Magic were able to put the game away early is even better.
  • What not to like Howard found himself in foul trouble again, picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter and playing just more than 23 minutes. This was a problem last year, of course, as the other team constantly targets Howard as a potential fouler on both offense and defense. In fact, there’s no question that other teams game plan around putting Dwight in foul trouble. At halftime, Otis Smith gave Howard a little pep-talk, and Howard responded with 17 third-quarter points. This from the Orlando Sentinel:

    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.

  • Behind the box score: Howard has now made 32 of 49 free throws, increasing his free-throw percentage to 65.3 percent.
  • Magic’s best: Credit to Howard, who battled through his frustrations to carry the Magic offensively through the second half.
  • Magic’s worst: Vince Carter. Rashard Lewis. Zero combined points.
  • Up next: The Magic get another chance at the Pistons on Friday night. This time it’s at home, and the tip’s at 7 p.m.
  • 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