Vince Carter Scores 48, Leads Magic to Comeback Victory Over New Orleans

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It looked like we went back in time Monday night. The Orlando Magic defeated the New Orleans Hornets in an 80’s style shootout that featured a lot of scoring and not much defense. Vince Carter and Peja Stojakovic looked like they had time machines of their own. Stojakovic led the Hornets with 29 points and nine rebounds. Vince Carter had one of the all-time great performances in Magic history leading the Magic to a 123-117 victory by pouring in 48 points on 19-of-27 shooting and pulling down seven rebounds. Dwight Howard had 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks while David West and rookie Darren Collison each scored 27 points for the Hornets.

Early on in the first quarter, it looked like the Magic were going to have an easy time. They started hot and jumped out to an early 12-5 lead capped by Vince Carter’s three-pointer but the Hornets quickly answered, scoring the next seven points and eventually building a six-point lead at 25-19. The Magic scored the next seven points before the Hornets scored seven straight of their own. New Orleans had a 32-28 lead after one. New Orleans shot 11-of-22 in the first quarter, made all six free throws and hit four of their six three-point attempts. Orlando was 12-of-21 from the field and hit both of their three-point attempts. Orlando’s six turnovers were the difference in the quarter. With offense (and defense) like that, it was obvious that the fans were in for a treat.

The Magic allowed the Hornets to build a 10-point lead by the 6:50 mark in the second quarter and fell behind by 11 four minutes later. The Magic clawed their way back after a couple of nice baskets by Vince Carter and cut the lead to 61-55. It looked like the Magic could steal the momentum, but turnovers and poor defense helped the Hornets go on a 9-0 run to end the quarter and seize all the momentum back. The Magic turned the ball over four more times but played pretty well offense. They scored 27 points on 11-of-22 shooting but had no answer for the Hornets. New Orleans shot 16-of-23 (69.6%!) in the quarter, hit two more three-pointers and outrebounded the Magic in a dominating offensive performance. One positive many in the media work room took in at halftime was that Vince Carter scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and was on pace for a second consecutive good shooting night. No one could have predicted just how good of a night it was really going to be for Carter.

You can’t say Orlando played great defense in the third quarter, but they certainly played much better – they allowed 24 third quarter points after giving up 70 points in the first half. The Magic started the quarter on a 15-5 run that cut New Orleans’ lead down to five. The Magic soon got within one at 84-83 on a Vince Carter layup. The Magic got the ball back after a defensive stop but Rashard Lewis blew a chance to take the lead when he missed a three-pointer. The Hornets ended the quarter on a 10-4 run to take a 94-87 lead into the final period. Vince Carter scored 16 of Orlando’s 32 third quarter points.

Orlando continued to score but early in the final period, it looked like they were not going to be able to get enough stops and trailed 104-93 with just 7:52 remaining in the game. Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter hit back-to-back three-pointers and cut the lead back to five. After a third straight stop, Darius Songalia was whistled for a flagrant foul and the Magic cut the lead to three on two Dwight Howard free throws. Vince Carter hit two straight jumpers (the second being a three pointer) with a David West jumper sandwiched in between and the game was tied with 5:22 to go. After two more Dwight Howard free throws gave Orlando a 108-107 lead, Carter scored Orlando’s next 10 points, including a beautiful three-point play and a three-pointer. His last points, two free throws, gave the Magic a six-point lead with 38 seconds left. Carter scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed four rebounds. Howard had 10 points in the period, giving the superstar duo 28 of Orlando’s 36 second-half points. Orlando closed the game out at the free throw line and won 123-117.

NBA

Orlando’s defense was absolutely atrocious in the first half. Orlando gave up 70 points, allowed the Hornets to shoot an effective field goal percentage of 66.7% and trailed by 15. The Magic allowed three players – Stojakovic, West and Collison to score 16 points each in what was Orlando’s worst half of defense of the season. New Orleans really made Orlando run and Darren Collison’s eight assists along with his 16 points killed the Magic. Collison made a lot of good decisions and Orlando just couldn’t handle his speed. If the Hornets do in fact lose the NBA’s best Point Guard, Chris Paul like they are rumored to, they have a very adequate replacement in Collison. He was very impressive.

Fortunately for the Magic, they played much better in the second half. The Hornets shot 19-of-44 from the field in the second half and their eFG was just 46.6%. Orlando decided to put Dwight Howard on David West in the final quarter and although West was able to make some baskets, he was less effective. Van Gundy said that even if West hit some shots, putting Howard on him worked because the Magic did not have to double team him. Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy was not pleased with the defense.

"“We did not have much energy tonight. We could not keep up with them. Obviously, they just shredded us defensively.”"

Orlando’s offense was fantastic all game long. They scored 68 second-half points and had an eFG% of 63.8%. They turned the ball over just four times and dished out eight assists. They also had 23 rebounds to New Orleans’ 12, made seven three-pointers (four by Carter) and hit 17 of their 20 free throws.

Obviously, Carter was the story. He was absolutely incredible and Head Coach Stan Van Gundy, along with his players, was happy that Carter had a huge game.

"“What about Vince? Anybody got that question tonight?”"

Carter scored 48 points on 19-of-27 shooting and was 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. Carter got whatever he wanted all night long. He really attacked the basket on Monday night and that got him going from beyond the arc. He also posted up at times. Simply put, Carter did it all.

"“That was absolutely incredible. We had a lot of guys do good things, but quite frankly, tonight they were in the shadow by that. That was vintage Vince Carter. That was really, I mean, unbelievable.”"

Carter’s 34 second-half points led the Magic comeback, much like his third quarter performance did Sunday against Boston.

"“Phenomenal, phenomenal second half, we needed it… He has had nights like this in his career and it was fun. That place was rocking in there.”"

Carter was the only player who had a big night. Dwight Howard had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks. His most impressive stat probably came from the free throw line where he was 9-of-13.

Jameer Nelson’s game should also not be overlooked. Often criticized as a shoot-first point guard and poor playmaker, Nelson dished out 10 assists Monday night.

Game Notes:

  • It was the third time the Magic overcame a 17-point deficit to win this season.
  • Carter’s 48 points were the most since Tracy McGrady scored 62 vs. Washington on March 10, 2004.
  • It was the most Carter has scored individually since December 23, 2005 when he put up 51 points against Van Gundy’s Miami Heat.
  • Carter is averaging 26.5 points per game in February.
  • Dwight Howard had his 13th straight double-double – that’s the most in the NBA this season.
  • HTD will have more quotes from Carter and Van Gundy on Tuesday.

Next Up: The Magic travel to Chicago to face the Bulls Wednesday.

Final Thought: Wow, that was an incredible performance.

(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.)