Hedo Turkoglu struggled in Toronto and Phoenix after he left Orlando as a free agent. You could see the frustration in his face and demeanor as he trudged along in those two cities. When he came back to the Magic, you could visibly see how revitalized he was to be back with Stan Van Gundy.
There are still plenty of areas this team needs improvement on as Orlando continues to work in the players acquired in last month’s trade, but Turkoglu is not one of them. And he has slid right back in as the Magic’s “point forward” and playmaker.
Turkoglu dished out a career-high 17 assists after a sluggish first half, charging a strong fourth quarter in Orlando’s 117-107 victory at American Airlines Center over Dallas. The team tied the franchise record with its ninth consecutive victory.
The Magic outscored the Mavericks 37-26 completing a comeback that started way back in the first half. Orlando was down 16 at one point and playing extremely uninspired basketball. Turkoglu was a big part of energizing the effort and both keeping the team in the game and helping it pull away.
He helped set the tone pretty early in the second half with Orlando down six, getting many of his five steals in the second half. It helped spark the fast break and get the Magic moving the basketball and attacking the glass.
It also helped to have Dwight Howard in the game. He sat early in the first quarter with two fouls and picked up his third fairly quickly in the second. Howard had only one foul the rest of the way, playing the rest of the game after the halftime break.
No one can underscore the importance of Howard for every facet of the Magic’s strategy. His 23-point, 13-rebound and 9-for-16 shooting performance display only little of the effect he has on a game.
Dallas got pretty much whatever it wanted in the first half, thanks to the early foul trouble on Howard and some lackadaisical defense. DeShawn Stevenson was simply unconscious early from beyond the arc, ending up by hitting six of nine 3-pointers and scoring 24 points.
Without Dirk Nowitzki in the lineup, the Mavericks were searching for offense. Jason Terry and Jason Kidd did a good job penetrating with 16 assists between them and JJ Barea had five off the bench.
As a team, Dallas shot 53.9 percent from the floor and 12 for 26 from beyond the arc.
But the Magic did a good job fighting back and making adjustments in the second half. Jason Richardson did an extremely good job keeping Orlando in the game early. He had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting and hit a couple of big 3-pointers to keep the team within striking distance.
Van Gundy said that run to keep Orlando just in the game was probably as important as any other.
From there the Magic fought hard and played inspired basketball, getting away with playing one half of basketball for the fourth straight game. Dallas committed 17 turnovers and Orlando ended up going to the line 26 times.
After a shaky first half from beyond the arc, the 3-pointers started falling as the team shot 14 for 32 from long range.
Van Gundy came away impressed both with the play of Turkoglu and the overall play of his team in getting to nine in a row. He said he did not think they would get it together this quickly.
But obviously there are still some improvements to make defensively. The schedule stiffens up on this road trip and the games will not come easy on the road.