Magic Ride Hot Start to Victory Over Pacers

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The Magic finally got off to a good start, dominating the first quarter to take a 40-20 lead. Orlando built their lead to 29 points before letting the Pacers cut it to as little as eight in the fourth quarter. In the end, Orlando held on for 109-98 victory to snap their three-game losing streak. Dwight Howard was the star – he had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals, but  the performance of Matt Barnes should not be overlooked. Barnes had 10 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and 6 assists.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy was happy to finally get off to a good start in a game.

"“I thought the main thing was we got off to a great start. Our guys were really ready to play, came out with great energy, great ball movement. They really wanted to get something done.”"

The Magic came out firing in the first quarter. The Magic looked like they were on a mission to get the ball to Dwight Howard. He got the ball deep in the paint on the first two possessions. This helped Orlando play their inside-out game perfectly – on the next three possessions Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis made three-pointers. Dwight Howard continued to be aggressive and although he had a little trouble finishing, he got to the free throw line 10 times and grabbed 4 offensive rebounds to finish the quarter with 12 points. Matt Barnes was excellent. He scored 4 points, grabbed 6 rebounds and passed them ball extremely well – he had 5 assists. It helped that Danny Granger picked up 3 fouls within the first three minutes of the game. Indiana’s transition defense was awful and the Magic scored 13 fast break points. The Magic shot 60.9% in the quarter, hit six three-pointers and led the game 40-20 after one.

The Magic kept up their energy level and stayed active on the defensive end but Danny Granger had a good quarter and finished the half with 16 points. They continued to shoot well from downtown (3-of-5) and kept up their shooting percentage (60.0%). The Magic continued to get out in transition and scored 11 more fast break points. Orlando’s bench produced very well, scoring 32 of Orlando’s 68 first half points. 22 of those 32 points came in the second quarter. Orlando had a 68-46 lead at the half.

The Magic lets the Pacers creep back into the game, cutting the deficit to 15 at 71-56, but the Magic responded with a 14-5 run to give them a 24-point lead. The Magic continued to have good ball movement but they called off, shooting just 8-of-19 in the period, but they made up for it by allowing the Pacers to shoot just 9-of-21 in the period. The quarter was fairly even and dominated by free throw shooting.

Orlando allowed the Pacers to start the quarter on a 14-2 run that saw them cut the lead to just 8.The Pacers shot 9-of-19 in the final quarter. Troy Murphy hit two three-pointers and scored eight points during the Pacers’ run. The Magic did not make their second field goal of the quarter until the 5:21 mark and shot just 5-of-16 in the period. Orlando got some big rebounds down the stretch to secure the 105-96 victory.

NBA

Van Gundy was very complimentary of Dwight Howard on Wednesday night.

"“Dwight was obviously tremendous. I thought we did a good job of getting him the ball. He did a good job of making his free throws and had a big night.”"

Van Gundy should have been complimentary – Howard was a monster on Wednesday night. You can read about Howard’s performance here.

Matt Barnes was fantastic against the Pacers. Van Gundy acknowledged that.

"“Matt obviously gave us a big lift, particularly on the boards but he really filled up the stat sheet – a double-double and six assists. “"

Barnes was great from the start. He really energized the Magic from the get-go. As usual, Barnes did the little things – he played good defense, he hustled to the ball and he made the extra pass. Barnes not only rebounded the ball well, but he did an incredible job passing the ball, highlighted by an alley oop pass that Dwight Howard hammered down for the second consecutive game.

I caught up with Barnes after the game and asked him if it was in the plans for him to be more of a playmaker or if that’s just the way the game went.

"“That’s how it went. They were really trying to close out on the three-point line and I caught the ball a couple of times and was able drive and get it to Dwight, get it to Vince and Rashard, kind of just taking what the defense gives us. We’re such a talented team that anyone out there can score. We have confidence in whoever you pass the ball too.”"

Van Gundy has some nice things to say about two other Magic players.

"“Rashard is really starting to really come back to being himself offensively and J-Will had another really good outing.”"

Rashard Lewis did some very good things Wednesday night. He was much more active on both ends of the floor and did a good job of attacking the rim. Lewis attempted 8 of his 16 shots from within 15 feet. Lewis still took 7 three-pointers, hitting 3 of them, to finish with 18 points. Lewis did a very good job on the glass, grabbing 7 boards. His defense was also much better on Wednesday night. Outside of Danny Granger and a couple of shots from Troy Murhpy, Indiana’s front court couldn’t get anything going.

Jason Williams was excellent again. He had to play some extra minutes because of Jameer Nelson’s foul problems and made the most of it. Williams was 6-of-11 from the field and scored 14 points. He made a couple of really nice drives to the basket that results in easy shot attempts or clean three-point attempts for his teammates. Williams’ best plays are still those that set up his teammates. He had 9 assists, including a beautiful alley-oop to Vince Carter. Williams could have had 10 assists, but Matt Barnes was not expecting the pass on one of Williams’ vintage White Chocolate behind-the-back dishes. Williams, again, brought great energy and was a spark for the team.

Speaking of Carter, he did have that dunk and one three-pointer, but that was it. Carter scored 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting. In his defense, he did do a much better job of getting his teammates involved – he had 5 assists. When asked about Carter’s play in his postgame press conference press conference, Van Gundy did not want to talk about it.

"“Look, it’s just too much scrutiny on one guy. That’s all we come in and talk about every game. ‘What did you think of Vince, what did you think of Vince?’ We played well.”"

Orlando’s offense played very well. They shot an effective field goal percentage of 56.0%, hit 10 three-pointers, and assisted on 67.5% of their field goals. This was due to the fact that Orlando was able to effectively drive into the lane and get easy shots or kick it out to the shooter for the open shot.

Van Gundy agreed.

"“I thought we were playing the game we wanted to play – inside-out. I thought our guys came with great energy. A much better performance.”"

The question is, can they keep it up?

"“I thought we were able to do that against L.A. and the key is to be able to do it for longer and longer periods of time.”"

It wasn’t all great for Orlando. The Magic made some mistakes .They committed 21 turnovers that led to 21 Pacers points. Van Gundy though that the high number of turnovers is what let Indiana back in the game.

"“The only real negative in the game and it reflected in letting them get back in it a little bit in the fourth quarter was the 21 turnovers. That’s about the only real negative.”"

Game Notes:

  • Howard’s 32 points were a season-high.
  • Barnes’ 16 rebounds were a career-high.
  • It was Stan Van Gundy’s 250th career victory.
  • Orlando dominated the glass outrebounding the Pacers 50-35.
  • Dwight Howard’s 24 free throw attempts were an NBA season-high.

Next Up: The Magic will host the Sacramento Kings on Friday, a team they defeated just over a week ago.

Final Thought: The Magic needed a win and they got one.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)