Dwight Howard Does it All
I do not think it needs mentioning that Dwight Howard is very good. Slowly but surely, everyone else is going to realize Howard should be part of the MVP conversation and that he is not just a one-dimensional offensive beast who plays perhaps the best defense in the league.
After two games where Howard struggled on both ends, Superman came to life to anchor Orlando over a struggling Golden State team.
Howard’s stat line: a team-high 28 points, 12 rebounds, 11-for-17 shooting, six of 11 from the line, two blocks, two steals and zero fouls. That is right no fouls.
Yes Golden State is a team that even with Andris Biedrins, who did not make the trip east with the Warriors, is not necessarily that tall. But Howard had another flat out dominant game. The kind that was missing, and Orlando survived, in the previous two outings against Miami and Philadelphia on Sunday and Monday.
In those games it seemed like Howard was frustrated with foul calls or whatever and never could get into the flow of the game. A tell-tale sign of that was his low rebounding numbers. He had five rebounds Sunday and three rebounds Monday, his two lowest rebounding totals of the season and his first effort with less than 10 rebounds since a Jan. 9 meeting with Atlanta.
But Howard was very much involved in all aspects of this game. Scoring wise is obvious. His rebounding was back up as he tries to start a new double double streak. More impressive was his steal that led to him starting a fast break before feeding Matt Barnes for an easy lay in.
Howard certainly did everything and more tonight, taking advantage of the matchup he had with Golden State’s lack of size inside.
A quick perusal of the box score showed some pretty dominating numbers coming from the homestanding Magic.
First: Orlando outrebounded Golden State 58-29 and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Howard only had three of those, for the record.
An easy way to stop a breakneck fast breaking team like the Warriors is to get offensive rebounds and prevent the break by scoring buckets. The Magic shot a clean 52.2 percent from the floor and took 90 shots in the game (which was only eight more than the Warriors which shows you how quick they want to play).
The pace was obviously not as huge of a factor. Golden State, which dressed the minimum eight players thanks to injuries that have ravaged the team, scored only 90 points. This is the second highest scoring team in the NBA and a team known for some video game-like scores even with an undermanned roster.
Brandon Bass did most of the damage on the offensive glass, grabbing five of his seven boards off a missed Orlando shot. Bass has started to fit in to the rotation and is bumping Ryan Anderson off some of his minutes. Bass has been pretty effective considering the time he had missed beforehand. He finished with 10 points tonight to go with his work on the glass.
More impressively though is a look at Golden State’s side of the box score. Which is the second form of domination tonight.
No Warriors player had a positive plus-minus rating. Not only that, none of them had a plus-minus rating greater than -10. C.J. Watson had a -11 rating this evening, tops for his team.
Plus-minus rating can be a fishy stat sometimes, but taken collectively as a team this shows Orlando simply had this game from start to finish. There were no holes in the way the Magic played. Golden State’s eight guys played the whole game and not one combination of them could slow Orlando down tonight.
3-point Ark Dry?
A game after extolling how great Orlando’s 3-point shooting was, the 3-point well dried up again. The Magic shot five for 21 from beyond the arc, continuing a recent stretch of poor 3-point shooting.
Heading into Monday’s game against Philadelphia, Orlando was shooting 28 percent in its previous five games. The Magic then broke out to shoot 15 of 23 in their rout of the 76ers.
Hard to say why the shots are not falling. Orlando still ranks fifth in the league shooting 3-pointers, hitting on 36.4 percent of its attempts (which is really quite amazing considering how many times the team takes threes).
What might be more impressive is how the Magic have refused to be defined simply by their 3-point shooting and have continued to win despite poor shooting. Orlando is 5-2 in its last seven games when the poor 3-point shooting seemed to really become noticeable.
Not saying the Magic do not need the 3-pointer to win. But they are finding ways to win without it… or when it is not falling.