Toronto fans surely remember Dwight Howard having nights like he did tonight back when the team made its last playoff appearance. Howard seemed like he averaged a 20/20 game in that five-game set against the Raptors in 2008. Even with calls of “Batman’s better” from the Air Canada Centre crowd, Howard just likes seeing Toronto for whatever reason.
Add this game to the classic list of Howard games against Toronto.
Dwight scored 17 points in the third quarter, putting away the Raptors after the Magic skated off to a six-point halftime lead. When all was said and done, Howard was not needed in the fourth quarter. The Magic had this one in hand and won 112-72 at Amway Center on Friday.
Howard was simply dominant throughout the evening as the Raptors elected to give him single coverage all night and they don’t have the front line to stand up to Howard. The strategy worked momentarily at the beginning of the game with Howard rushing through his post opportunities and Orlando having some struggles from the floor.
The entire first half felt like Orlando should have been up by much more than the team was. Toronto was not shooting particularly well, but were able to get to the line and take advantage of Orlando turnovers to hang around.
Howard knocked them out in the third.
In that period he was all over the glass — both offensive and defensive — and simply picked apart Toronto’s defense at his whim. Howard was finishing around the basket, blowing through contact and running the floor. He established some fantastic post position on multiple plays by simply beating his man down the floor and camping out in the paint. Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu did a great job with entry passes to get him the ball in a position to score.
There were no jumpers tonight. Howard was in full attack mode. He scored 17 points in the third quarter to turn a six-point halftime lead into a 16-point lead heading into the final quarter. The Magic scored 26 points in that period. Yeah, Howard was having his way.
He was so dominant in fact John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com asked Stan Van Gundy after the game if it was possible with more time Howard could have gone for a 40-point, 30-rebound game.
Are you kidding me? That idea sounds crazy!
But Howard was that kind of dominant tonight. His final line had 31 points, 19 rebounds, 9 offensive rebounds, 12-for-21 shooting and 7-for-13 at the foul line. All in 30 minutes. Howard did not leave the bench in the fourth quarter. His per 48 minute stats would be about 58 points and 38 rebounds. Maybe it was not so crazy after all.
It was not needed tonight. Howard was able to do a lot of the work alone tonight using that strong third quarter to grab firm control of the game. Toronto was able to hang around in the first, but still could not find its shooting stroke in the second half. Orlando played fantastic defense, anchored by Howard, and never let Toronto get into much of a rhythm. This was not the first meeting where the Raptors scored at will. Andrea Bargnani never got going tonight.
The Raptors shot 35.4 percent from the floor and posted an 82.8 offensive rating. Once Orlando buried Toronto, Toronto was out.
Ryan Anderson scored 17 of his career-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, hitting four of nine 3-pointers and waking up from a slow game by his standards recently. He added 10 rebounds too. In the fourth quarter, JJ Redick then became the second player on the team to hit 10 points on the team when he hit one of his two 3-pointers.
Gilbert Arenas came off the bench and had one of his better games in a while to score seven points and dish out seven assists. More importantly, he had just a single turnover.
You can see this game was all about Dwight and his offensive prowess. The team played fantastic defense and even got off to a good start, taking the lead out of the first quarter.
Things worked really well tonight. Even with a slow start offensively, the Magic were in control for most of the night.