Welcome Back, Offense
After a few games struggling with its 3-point shooting, the shots came alive in this rout of the 76ers. Even with Dwight Howard struggling once again from the floor, the ball was moving crisply inside to outside and around the perimeter to get open shots. More importantly, players were not just settling for 3-pointers but looking to attack the basket.
On the evening, the Magic finished 15 of 23 from beyond the arc, good for 65 percent. It helped them score 68 first-half points and 100 points by the end of the third quarter.
Orlando had not shot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in any of its last five games and was shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc in its last five games. The offensive explosion, especially from the Magic’s favored 3-point range was a nice surprise.
No player except for Jason Williams shot below 50 percent from 3-point range, and he only took one. Rashard Lewis hit three of four to score 19 points and was eight for 12 in the game, continuing to show an expanded offensive game with his shots not falling this season.
Jameer Nelson probed his way in and out of the defense like he has been doing during the last several games as well. He led the team with 22 points and dished out 10 assists. As has been mentioned by several writers, including myself, when Nelson is playing at this high a level offensively — both scoring and distributing the basketball — Orlando can be an entirely different and better team.
Vince Carter also got into the fun with 19 points too on 7-of-13 shooting and three of four from beyond the arc. Carter also added seven rebounds. Matt Barnes had 16 and Dwight Howard, in an off night, scored 14 as each starter scored in double figures.
You get the picture. The offense was really flowing and working in Philadelphia.
Stop, Hammer Time
For the second straight night Dwight Howard was almost non-existent. Howard scored 14 points, but grabbed only three rebounds. This forced Orlando to rely on its perimeter players to initiate the offense and get the team rolling. Luckily the shots were falling and Jameer Nelson has continued to play like an All Star the last few weeks.
But the unsung hero (or maybe he is sung since everyone loves the guy) with Howard struggling has been Marcin Gortat’s play.
The last time Gortat was at the Wachovia Center he famously stepped in for Howard after Howard was suspended for Game Six of Orlando’s first round playoff series with Philadelphia. Gortat helped the Magic dominate that game and move on to the second round.
Surely the 76ers would remember Gortat when he came in to the game with Howard struggling?
Apparently not. After stepping in and playing well in Howard’s stead in Houston and Sunday night against Miami, Gortat did it again proving why Otis Smith felt the need to match Dallas’ offer sheet for him during the summer.
Gortat scored just six points and grabbed only three rebounds, but his effect on the floor was large as usual. He had a +11 plus/minus rating which was the largest for the bench players.
Yes, a lot of that came with Nelson (+22), Carter (+22) and Lewis (+20) on the floor. But it is also important for the backup to your superstar to be able to come in and help the team. Tonight there was no drop off between Gortat and Howard (both were not getting too involved in the offense anyway).
Gortat has put together some very fine statistical and effort performances in the last few games as Howard has slowed off his torrid early February pace. His energy and his ability to do little things (like set good picks and score when needed) allow the Magic not to have a drop off if Howard has to go to the bench. Gortat looks very comfortable playing with the starters and fitting into his role.
Orlando hangs its hat on its defensive play. But there was not much of that tonight.
All five of Philadelphia’s scorers reached double figures, led by Jrue Holiday’s 23 points, and the team shot 49 percent from the floor. The obvious difference was that the 76ers hit only eight of their 17 3-pointers. That will win you most games, but not with the way the Magic were shooting tonight.
This was a particularly clean game too as Philadelphia committed just 12 turnovers to Orlando’s 11. It is hard to explain why neither defense did not show up.
But one thing is certain, in the second quarter the Magic made stops to propel themselves into the lead and take control of the game. They were up seven at the break and used a 34-20 third quarter to take firm control. They were never threatened. Sometimes that is all you need your defense to do.