Wizards Cure What Ails Magic… For One Night


The domination started from the moment the ball was tipped it seemed.

The first points of the game came on a Jason Richardson post up and layup that got the shooting guard into an early rhythm like in two fo the Magic’s previous three wins. Then it became a constant parade of passes and lobs to Dwight Howard and then easy penetration. The Wizards were utterly defenseless. And, with the Magic focused and energetic coming off a bad loss to the Pistons (as Dwight Howard described it), the Wizards faced the brunt of that onslaught.

Orlando had its mojo working. The ball went inside to Dwight Howard with ease and in position for easy baskets and alley oops.

The Magic raced out to a 9-0 lead and never really looked back. Orlando won 103-85, running away with this one at Amway Center and sending Washington to 0-6 for the first time in franchise history. The lead in the second half never crept too far below 20 points and Orlando opened up as much as a 26-point lead. That says it all, really.

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Everything that was a point of criticism for Orlando in the first five games dissipated in this one:

Howard had his best offensive game of the season, dominating early and often. He scored 28 points and added 20 rebounds and three blocks, shooting 11 for 13 from the floor. Even with the presence of the long-armed JaVale McGee going up against him, Howard just had his way. It was that simple.

Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson were playing aggressively and looking to attack from the get-go. Richardson started the game off with a make from a post look, a new wrinkle I highlighted earlier this year into the Stan Van Gundy offense to keep Richardson involved. Richardson finished off with just eight points, and he continued to struggle from the floor shooting 3 for 9, but he also had five assists.

Nelson brought some good energy early too. He got some good baskets and was looking to get into the paint. He was still trying to drive to pass rather than shoot, but you can’t argue with the results. Nelson too continued to struggle to shoot, scoring seven points on 3-for-8 shooting. But he had nine assists, contributing to the team in ways other than scoring.

That is what Van Gundy was likely looking for when he spoke with Richardson and Nelson privately at shootaround Wednesday morning. The energy from those two players was much better even though they were not scoring.

Stan Van Gundy has also tried to get Ryan Anderson to do more than be a 3-point scorer. Tonight, that was accomplished too.

Anderson scored 23 points, making three of his five 3-pointers. He was only 4 for 11 on 2-point shots. But the 11 attempts from inside the arc showed Anderson was working a different type of game tonight. Ryan Anderson recorded 15 rebounds, including seven offensive rebounds. As Sun Sports researched after the game, it was just the third time in Magic history that Magic teammates recorded games of 20 points and 15 rebounds.

Defensively, Orlando was much more disciplined too. After giving up loads of free throws against the Raptors and Pistons, two teams at the bottom of the league in free throw rate, Orlando was much more disciplined and energetic defensively. Washington still got to the line for 18 free throws, but many of those came after the game was long decided.

Stan Van Gundy said it best. There was not much to be upset over, even for him. The little hiccups only brought the lead down to around 18 points. Washington never threatened.

And that was another thing. In blowout wins over the Rockets, Bobcats and Nets, the Magic struggled to absolutely bury teams. For the first time all year, the score reflected how easily the Magic won. This was a blowout through and through.

Now the test really comes however.

When the shortened schedule came out, everyone could have predicted the Magic would escape the early part of the season with one or two losses. Now the Magic face a 2011 Playoff participant for just the second time this year. The other was the season-opening loss to the Thunder. Will the Magic be able to execute on offense and defense so seamlessly against the one-loss Bulls?

That remains to be seen. And finally we will see it on the floor in an early season challenge.