This was a solid win against one of the West’s better teams, no doubt — but I feel like tonight’s had more to do with Utah’s sluggishness than particularly outstanding play from the Magic. Dwight Howard dominated from the start, finishing with 28 points and 20 boards. He made 10 of 15 shots from the field, as Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur could do little to stop the big guy. It was Howard’s seventh 20-20 game of the season, and a couple more free throws (he was 8-of-17) would’ve given him his second 30-20 game of the year. There’s no way the Magic should’ve lost Utah was coming off a triple-overtime loss to Miami on Saturday night, and they definitely looked tired. And to add to their problems, Jerry Sloan was hit with a double-technical in the opening minutes and missed pretty much the entire game. I think Sloan figured the Jazz had no chance and wanted to hit the bar early. The Magic jumped out to a 15-3 lead and put the game on cruise control. Kudos to the Magic for never letting the Jazz back in it. That’s what good teams do. Running and gunning The game was fast-paced. 176 shots were taken between the two teams — that’s a shot every 16 seconds. It was one of the most attempts taken in a Magic game this season. Consequently, the Magic had a 60-44 rebounding advantage. JJ Redick played 27 minutes, compared to Mickael Pietrus’ 16 and Courtney Lee’s 15. It appeared as if Redick was under the direction to shoot, because the people’s champ was firing here tonight. He was 1-for-6 from deep and 2-of-10 from the field. Not his best showing. Welcome back, Hidayet Hedo Turkoglu returned after missing two games with an injury, and the time off definitely showed. He seemed a bit out of sync, and his shot wasn’t quite as fluid as we’re used to seeing. But overall, it was a nice game for Turk. He dished out eight assists – mostly coming on swing passes to jump shooters – and he had just one turnover. Big ups to Milwaukee Milwaukee defeated Boston tonight, bringing Orlando within a half game of the Celtics. If Orlando snags that No. 2 seed, it officially gives them a fighter’s chance to beat Boston in the second round. It’s all but certain that Cleveland is heading into the playoffs as the top seed. Seriously, Dwight deserves some MVP talk I really don’t get why Howard isn’t getting at least a glimmer of MVP consideration. He’s exactly the kind of MVP candidate you’d think the media would be willing to jump all over. “Oh, he does more than score. It’s the intangibles that makes Howard great, and his defense and rebounding are more important than scoring.” You know, just like with Steve Nash it was “He doesn’t have to put up huge numbers to be our MVP. The way he creates and runs that offense makes him the league’s most important guy.” If only Dwight was a cute little Canadian. Here’s a couple quotes from the Jazz guys tonight:
Carlos Boozer: “Howard was a monster. He is one of those guys that people don’t appreciate like they should. He should be in the MVP talk, too. He cleans up everything and corrects any mistake they make.”
Jerry Sloan: “He took us out of our offense, and then you have to take pot luck out there, and that’s usually not a good percentage shot”
MAGIC’S BEST: We’ll ignore the seven turnovers and focus on Howard’s dominance in the paint. His 28 and 20 performance speaks for itself. What’s even bigger is that Dwight kept Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer from doing work in the paint. 14 of Boozer’s 20 field goals were jump shots from outside the paint, and eight of Deron Williams’ 10 shots were outside jumpers. If you can keep a team’s two biggest stars away from the hoop like that, you’re going to have success. MAGIC’S WORST: It seems like Rashard Lewis has a way of playing poorly in games where the Magic don’t need him. He was 2-for-9 from the field and 0-for-6 from behind the arc. After making a 3-pointer in 55 straight games, he’s now failed to make a 3-pointer in two of three games. DEFENDING DWIGHT: Mehmet Okur began the game against Howard, and it was really cute watching the Pamper-like Okur try to defend Superman. The Jazz brought the double-team most of the time, and they’d switch where the double-team was coming from… But it didn’t matter tonight. Dwight was able to get to the hoop (five dunks) and get to the foul line (17 free-throw attempts). TELLING STATISTIC: A couple things: the Jazz making just 1-of-11 treys, and Deron Williams going 3-of-10 from the field. Without hitting 3s and without their point guard making plays, the Jazz didn’t stand a chance.