Bench Back to the Rescue
Orlando has done this time and time again this season. The bench simply overwhelms teams that lack the depth to defend them. It happened again Friday night against the struggling Timberwolves, as the Magic sent them to their 15th straight loss.
Orlando’s bench, led by Ryan Anderson’s 19 points and nine rebounds, outscored Minnesota’s reserves 45-29. Considering the Timberwolves use Kevin Love as a starter off the bench and are more than willing to go deep into their bench for any spark, it was quite the achievement. JJ Redick added 14 points off the bench, hitting two of his three 3-point shots.
Minnesota hung around in this one, taking a 29-27 lead after the first quarter. The bench maintained things until the starters could overwhelm the overmatched Timberwolves squad in the second and continue piling the points in the third. Orlando won the second quarter 32-25 and were firmly in control with the defense locked in during the second half.
The bench is a big part of that. The Timberwolves had no hopes of matching the Magic if the bench played as well as it did tonight.
Anderson is the big surprise. He had not played since more than 10 minutes since playing 11 at New Orleans on Feb. 11. He had not played 20 minutes since Jan. 9 against Atlanta.
Anderson logged 23.5 minutes tonight (relegating Brandon Bass to the bench; he did not enter the game). Stan Van Gundy has flipped between Anderson and Bass throughout the season with Bass gaining favor lately. But Anderson showed he is ready when his number is called, just like Bass did a little more than a month ago when he started gaining the majority of minutes behind Rashard Lewis.
Maybe the decision was made tonight because of the athletic front line Minnesota can offer. Maybe it had more to do with Mickael Pietrus being out with a sprained ankle. Anderson was ready and performed when his team needed to. That is all you can ask for from a player in his position.
You Give Some, You Take Some
Dwight Howard does not need to be mentioned before the jump in this game. He did what we always expect him to.
Howard’s line: 24 points, 6-7 FG, 19 rebounds, 12-16 FTs, four blocks, four assists, 30:47 of playing time, one appearance in a movie trailer.
Pretty solid night for Howard. Al Jefferson said before the game that it is almost impossible to defend him and he showed that tonight. He hit his free throws and made the shots he did get (when he was not being fouled. Not only that, Howard completely dominated the boards.
Minnesota’s front line is nothing to slouch about. Jefferson (18 points, 13 rebounds tonight) is one of the best low post players in the league, Kevin Love (14 points, seven rebounds off the bench) is a pretty good rebounder and Darko Milicic (14 points, four rebounds, 7-16 FGs) is a big body to throw at Howard. Dominating the glass like that says something.
It also says something that Orlando outrebounded Minnesota 51-39. There were not a lot of second chance opportunities for the Timberwolves. The Magic had 15 offensive rebounds.
When the offense is rolling, shooting 46 percent on the night, but the percentage was above 50 percent at the half, that is more than enough to earn a victory. Especially against a struggling Minnesota team.
The bad was Orlando did give the ball away at a somewhat alarming rate. Another 17 turnovers tonight kept the Timberwolves closer than they probably should have been. Turnovers have been a season long problem and something the Magic have been able to overcome.
End of Turmoil?
Wednesday’s game ended in some turmoil with Matt Barnes upset with Stan Van Gundy for taking him out of the game down the stretch. Van Gundy offered no apologies, but said he understood why Barnes was angry.
The loss to Atlanta was pretty crushing. A lot of blame was passed around to people that may or may not have deserved it. It felt like frustration was setting in as the boredom of the end of the season perhaps set in.
Not an excuse obviously for the loss. The response was important.
The focus may not have been there early, evidenced by how close Minnesota kept the game. But when the chips were down the players that needed to step up stepped up and helped Orlando earn win number 51.
Howard did what Howard needed to do. Anderson gave a surprise performance that certainly buoyed the team.
Everyone else skated by and filled their roles. Vince Carter had 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Jameer Nelson played the distributor with three points and seven assists. And Rashard Lewis sort of bounced back with 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
It was enough to get the win tonight.