Three Thoughts after Magic’s 123-117 Win over Hornets

Just to recap, Vince Carter sucked in January. He has been good in February.

No, he has been G-O-O-D in February.

A night after leading Orlando with 20 points and helping the team erase a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit for a critical win at Boston, Carter had “one of those nights.”

By one of those nights, I mean he helped the Magic erase a 17-point deficit in the third quarter and a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter by scoring a season-high 48 points (three of his career high), 34 in the second half, on 19-of-27 shooting, 6-of-10 3-point shooting and seven rebounds.

Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves as Carter took over in the fourth quarter to lead the Magic back. Orlando outscored New Orleans 36-23 in the fourth quarter, finally clamping down with some defense to secure the win.

But I think it is safe to say this is the effort everyone expected from Carter from time to time. Stan Van Gundy said after the second game of the season in New Jersey, that it looked like Carter was getting ready to have one of the nights he dreaded as an opposing coach. Carter, remember, scored 16 points on six-of-eight shooting in 14:43 before leaving with a sprained ankle in the second quarter.

February has been like a new day for Carter. His abysmal January seems to be far behind him as Carter has looked refreshed and rejuvenated offensively through four games in February. He has scored more than 20 points in three of the four games in February. Carter did not score 48 points in the last four games of January (and he only got to 50 points in the last five games). That is the kind of sudden transformation that has happened.

Something has clicked with Carter.

And if anything, this is a message that Orlando now has this kind of scoring capability from a single player — something the team has lacked since Tracy McGrady left. Don’t forget, Dwight Howard added 25 points and 12 rebounds and the Magic scored 123 points. Just food for thought for the rest of the NBA.

Defense Wins?
Yesterday, I wrote how Orlando impressed with its defense against a good Boston team. Hard to see this kind of defensive effort coming against a New Orleans team without Chris Paul.

The Magic gave up a season-high 70 points in the first half, 117 total points, 51.7 percent shooting and 9-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc.

Darren Collison did a good job initiating the offense. The rookie had a career high 27 points to go with his nine assists. Peja Stojakovic had a season high with 29 points and David West also had 27.

Obviously the defense did a much better job in the second half, holding the Hornets to “only” 47 points.

The defense was pretty bad though as New Orleans built its lead. Lots of getting out of the way and lazy fouls as the Hornets attacked the paint and made the Magic’s defense really rotate and get out of position. Orlando struggled to match up with West in the first half — just take a look at Brandon Bass’ -13 +/- rating, a lot of it coming during the second quarter.

And again, the point guard position was a struggle for Jameer Nelson and Jason Williams to contain.

To Orlando’s credit, the team did a very good job responding offensively. The Magic shot 54.2 percent from the floor and outrebounded the Hornets 41-33.

A word of caution though. Howard, Carter and Rashard Lewis combined for 91 of Orlando’s 123 points. New Orleans got 83 points from its top three guys.

The Fickle Bench
If you read through the links from this afternoon, you may have come across a little item concerning Orlando’s bench. Yes, the Magic have an absolutely stacked team where either Ryan Anderson (who got his first DNP since Jan. 8 against Washington… this might just become a monthly thing) or Brandon Bass does not play. But one thing they lack is a reliable post option or scorer off the bench.

In essence the feast or famine sentiment coming from Orlando’s bench is because they have too many jump shooters and really no one to initiate the offense or get inside the paint.

Bass got his opportunity tonight as Anderson sat out. He scored four points in about 10 minutes of action, but still struggled defensively, the main thing keeping him off the court.

Jason Williams, who always does a good job picking up the tempo and often has his most effective play while with the starters, scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting.

Overall the bench had 23 points on 42.9 percent shooting. Good numbers, but not great.

The bench has had games like these and then they have had fantastic games too. Tonight though, it was clear Orlando was relying on its starters. Stan Van Gundy has always been someone who does not mind playing his starters big minutes. But it is also clear, the Magic need a little more consistent production from the bench to make sure they are not digging themselves out of a halftime hole.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily