Dwight Howard is Super
Even after getting voted into the All Star game (again) and leading Orlando to the second best record in the Eastern Conference, there are still doubts on whether Dwight Howard can be the unquestioned leader of this team. Shaquille O’Neal continues to question the legitimacy of Howard’s “Superman” claims and national columnist Bill Simmons saying Howard has “alpha dog pedigree, sidekick mindset.”
That is all a nice bunch of pop culture. None of it is on the court.
On the court, Howard continued his stellar play of late. Dwight scored a season-high 33 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked seven shots Wednesday night. The Magic’s offense started, continued and ended with Howard tonight and that is all that needs to be said.
Yes, this game happened against the struggling Pistons. Not the best competition. But entering the All-Star break, Howard was playing very well. He is averaging 21.9 points per game and 13.7 rebounds per game in February. Those are both above his season averages of 18.2 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.
Howard has clearly kicked his play up another notch.
More importantly tonight though, Howard got the ball and got his shots.
Howard made 11 of his 16 shots and 11 of his 13 free throws. He has only 18 games this year — three already this month — with both 10 field goals and 10 free throw attempts. Orlando is 14-4 in those games this season. Howard’s scoring attempts (shots and free throw attempts) clearly correlates with success for the Magic.
More impressively tonight, perhaps, Howard had just one turnover tonight. When Howard is scoring as efficiently as he was tonight and not turning the ball over, he is simply unstoppable.
Stan Van Gundy said as Orlando got back to work Monday that the team needed to focus in on defense and protecting the ball.
The defense has been slowly rounding into form and has gotten much better. Tonight, Orlando continued to improve its defense giving up 91 total points and 42.5 percent shooting. Not to mention forcing 17 turnovers.
The turnovers, the Magic continue to improve upon. Orlando averages 14.5 turnovers per game. Not a great number. But not a horrible number. The Magic have had their problems with turnovers throughout the year and that seems to be a number to keep an eye on.
Orlando committed “only” 11 turnovers tonight. Again, not a horrible number. It is actually pretty good considering how far beneath the team’s average it is.
Something to keep an eye on. Turnovers are an easy way for worse teams to stay competitive with teams like the Magic. Orlando did not really take control of this one until the second half, capping it off with a 33-14 fourth quarter.
Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and the Trade Deadline
As the trade deadline approaches, many of the commenters on these articles have been pointing to three people as areas for improvement. Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter.
A lot has been written about Carter lately after his 48-point outing against New Orleans last week. Carter put in another solid 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and four assists.
Nelson and Lewis though have had their struggles as they have fallen off their pace from last year. Lots of concerned Magic fans want to match the Mavericks’ or Cavaliers’ moves to improve their team with the trade deadline coming up today (Thursday).
Hopefully tonight’s game calms some of that down.
Nelson scored 14 points and dished out nine assists, abusing the opposing point guard for a change. Rodney Stuckey did have 11 points, but shot just four of 13. Nelson had a solid game and broke out a little.
Lewis scored 13 points, shooting just five of 13, and hit a few key 3-pointers as the Magic pulled away.
If anything, this performance helped get Orlando off on the right foot coming out of the break. It does not appear the Magic are interested in making any moves at the trade deadline. Otis Smith appears happy with his roster and the way Orlando has played lately, it looks like things are heading in the right direction.
Whether Antawn Jamison heading to Cleveland means anything is up for debate (thoughts on that coming later today).