For the second time in three weeks, the Orlando Magic contained the Raptors’ top-rated offense and won a Sunday afternoon game in Canada 104-96. Amidst a sea of boos, Vince Carter led the Magic with 24 points. JJ Redick added 19, and Dwight Howard posted 17 and 12 after facing some early foul trouble.
1. With Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis battling foul trouble, the Magic dominated the backcourt. Carter led the team in scoring on 9-of-24 shooting, making him 19-of-53 (35.8 percent) over the last two games. But on Sunday, he didn’t play poorly in the least. A lot of those missed shots were near the basket (including two missed dunks in traffic), and he played smart, sound basketball — especially in the second half when, after absorbing a lot of contact without whistles early on, he began chipping away at the Raptors from the outside. Carter carried the Magic when it counted, but he wasn’t the Magic’s best player on Sunday. That honor belongs to…
2. JJ Redick likes to play in Canada, apparently. Stan Van Gundy couldn’t keep Redick off the floor, logging him 30 minutes after he played a sparse 5 minutes against Boston on Friday. But Redick earned it, registering 19 points and five assists on 6-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from three-point range. Three weeks ago, when Redick started in place of the injured Carter, he scored 27 points to lead the Magic to a victory. Perhaps Bryan Colangelo should look into acquiring Redick when he’s a free agent this summer — clearly, there is something about the Canada air that Redick enjoys (either that, or rookie guard DeMar Derozan is not yet a good NBA defender).
3. Amazingly, the Magic had zero blocks, but they did a nice job contesting Toronto’s jump-shooters. The Magic held the Raptors to a 105 offensive rating, a noble feat considering the Raptors came into the game with a league-best 115.2 rating. Orlando did an excellent job rotating and communicating on defense, and Howard and Gortat’s defense of Bosh — a guy who ordinarily torches the Magic — should be commended. If it wasn’t for some particularly outstanding play from Amir Johnson (14 points, 8 rebounds in 29 minutes), this one could’ve been ugly.
What to like Jason Williams continued his admirable job replacing Jameer Nelson, scoring 16 points with zero turnovers. Against the slightly slow-footed Jose Calderon, Williams grew more assertive on offense and took Calderon to the whole several times. Williams has been letting Orlando’s high-profile playmakers do the heavy lifting the past couple games, but on Sunday we saw him take advantage of a favorable matchup — just what you’d expect out of a smart, heady player. After winning five straight, the Magic are now 11-3 and tied for the NBA’s best record — with everything that’s gone wrong, take a minute to appreciate that. A win over Miami on Wednesday and Atlanta on Thursday will mean the Magic are the league’s top squad. It’s disconcerting to see Howard play below his standard as he has this season, but the Magic are winning despite his troubles, and that’s great.
What not to like Howard’s consistent foul trouble is getting ridiculous, and that same thing was said like three games ago. It’s clear that teams are going after him early on — not that that’s anything new — and that ticky tack first or second foul is coming back to haunt him repeatedly. I don’t know the answer or solution to this problem; he’s already shying away from offenders to avoid fouls (he’s averaging 1.2 blocks less than last season). But I think we all hope it stops. And the way Amir Johnson controlled the paint for a stretch in the second half — against Howard and Gortat — wasn’t good. They were having trouble boxing out Johnson, as he maneuvered to the glass for an easy offensive putback on more than one occasion.
Magic number: Orlando’s two biggest free agents from this summer barely played on Sunday. Matt Barnes saw only 3 minutes of floor time — undoubtedly because of Redick’s strong play — while Brandon Bass didn’t play at all. NOTE: Got a couple emails saying I was stealing “Behind the box score” from Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie. Dwyer is one of my favorite NBA writers, and I know he uses the term for his incredibly comprehensive recaps – however, I didn’t realize the term was a brand name for BDL, since it’s hardly a term that’s only used at BDL (in fact, the Orlando local paper has used the term as a feature in its football section). But out of respect for KD and BDL, that term will be no more here.
Magic’s best: Redick, who came off the bench to pour in 19 points and become Orlando’s most productive player on the day.
Magic’s worst: He didn’t play poorly, but Rashard Lewis went 0-for-6 from deep and only saw the floor for 28 minutes because of foul trouble. He finished with 11 points.
Up next: The Magic play four games in five nights beginning with a home tilt against Miami on Wednesday. The next three games over that stretch are on the road.