This is going to become a theme, no matter who the opponent.
Dwight Howard picked up his (unofficially) 11th technical foul and struggled with foul trouble for the second straight game. He was stymied and taken out of rhythm.
For the second straight game, though, he and his team did not let it get them down. A team that would seemingly fold even against poor teams found its resolve again.
Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Brandon Bass, Ryan Anderson and JJ Redick all did their part to ensure Orlando would leave snow-laden Newark with a 104-88 win over New Jersey on Monday night.
Howard finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. He did most of his damage in the second half as Orlando firmly took control in the third quarter. Until that point, Orlando looked to have its shakiest game since this team got together in Atlanta for the first time a week ago.
But Hedo Turkoglu turned in another solid offensive performance to pace Orlando and keep the team in the lead throughout the first half. Turkoglu finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He shot 8 for 13 from the floor and four for seven from beyond the arc.
Out of all the new players, Turkoglu has definitely found his rhythm the quickest. His comfort in the offense is clearly evident.
Tonight, Turkoglu was looking for his shot and with Howard out of the game in the first half was doing a lot of the heavy lifting offensively. He and JJ Redick found their rhythm as Redick pitched in 15 points (11 in the first half) on 3-for-7 3-point shooting off the bench.
Brandon Bass had another solid game, doing a lot of the heavy lifting down low with Howard struggling with fouls. Bass had only four rebounds, but his 11 points were crucial until he succumbed to his own foul trouble.
The real hero down low until Howard was ready to come back in the second half was Ryan Anderson. Anderson continues to struggle with his shot as he comes back from the mid-foot sprain that has kept him out for most of the last week, shooting 4 for 11. But his 12 rebounds, five on the offensive end, were critical to the Magic winning the battle on the glass 46-38 tonight.
New Jersey just could not mount any type of run despite solid nights from Devin Harris (24 points) and Brook Lopez (20 points). The Nets were eventually eaten alive by Dwight Howard.
And for all his problems in the first half, this game became about how Howard dominated.
Seventeen of his 19 points came in the second half and he just changed the game defensively for Orlando — as he so often does. The Nets were able to stay in the game largely on the strength of Harris’ ability to attack the basket with Howard out of the game.
New Jersey was unable to do that in the second half.
Howard’s presence alone infused the Magic with some energy as things are slowly tightening up more and more defensively. Again, the potential of what this team can be is starting to pour through.
Tonight, Orlando allowed New Jersey to hit on 39.7 percent of its shots and 4 for 11 from beyond the arc. New Jersey had only 12 turnovers, half coming from Harris and three coming from Travis Outlaw.
The Nets were just not able to do much tonight. And against a team like the Magic, that gives you little chance for success.