Bench blitz and energy tops Timberwolves


Quentin Richardson had just four points in the game. A minuscule contribution in what amounted to a blowout — or, at least, easy — win. Still, he knew how to provide his team with some form of energy in a game that seemed all but over.

Yes, that was Richardson shouting at Minnesota shooters as they lined up for 3-pointers in his corner. Yes, that was Richardson, rollicking and rocking after every made 3-pointer with his air guitar, joined by his band mate Chris Duhon.

Occasionally, Richardson would be in the game, playing hard-nosed defense in his 16 minutes on the court.

Energy was the key word in a game going up against a young, up-and-coming team like Minnesota with a hard worker like Kevin Love. It was the kind of trap game that could trip up an inconsistent team like the Magic.

Orlando has had good starts ruined by inconsistent second quarters before. The team’s second unit has often lacked the cohesion and nergy to maintain any momentum the team has left.

That made Earl Clark that much more of a pleasant surprise. That made J.J. Redick’s push in the fourth quarter to help the team extend what became an eight-point lead back out to 16 that much more important. With six players in double figures, the Magic had the balance and had the never-ending supply (well, almost never-ending supply of energy) to counter Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.

There was never any doubt in Orlando’s 102-89 win over Minnesota at Amway Center on Monday.

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Things were different almost immediately in the second quarter. With Dwight Howard saddled with foul trouble — he scored only 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting and had just seven rebounds in 28 minutes — Stan Van Gundy turned to Earl Clark to play with Glen Davis to start the second quarter.

The Magic, after executing strongly to take an 11-point first quarter lead behind Howard’s work on the board, Hedo Turkoglu’s drives and Ryan Anderson’s 3-pointers, struggled to end the quarter after Howard went out. The Wolves were able to work the pick and roll and Rubio and J.J. Barea cut into the lead by attacking the paint and working the pick and roll.

So it was Clark who helped put the game firmly in Orlando’s grasp to last.

Clark has long been criticized for his willingness to take mid-range jumpers, failing to use his athleticism and length to get to the basket. But on Clark’s first possession, he took the ball to the basket and scored. then he put one in on a put-back jam over last year’s rebounding champion, Kevin Love. Little things can change a game dramatically. That simple act of changing the attack and creating things for his teammates and for himself.

Clark scored eight points off the bench on 4-for-6 shooting. Modest stats for sure, and yes those two misses were mid-range jumpers (he could not be perfect).

That little boost though carried things over to when the starters would come back in.

Jameer Nelson had 14 points and had a surprising six rebounds. J.J. Redick made his impact in the fourth quarter with most of his 14 points.

The Magic were never really threatened in this game. The Timberwolves struggled to hit much from the outside, shooting just 6 for 21 from beyond arc, and the Magic did a better job corralling Rubio and the Wolves pick and roll attack. Minnesota shot 41.3 percent for the game.

Orlando generally had very good ball movement throughout the game. Even though the team shot 42.4 percent from the floor, the Magic hit on 12 of their 30 3-pointers and got to the line 22 times for 18 makes.

The defense was very strong too. Minnesota, being young and struggling with turnovers, committed 18 turnovers. The Magic were opportunistic, getting 17 points off those 18 turnovers. The Timberwolves could not take advantage of those stretches where the Magic were a bit sloppy or cold from the floor. Stan Van Gundy lamented his team was relying too much on 3-pointers. Orlando was 24 for 55 on 2-pointers — good for 43.6 percent on 2-point field goals.

That might not get the job done against better teams.

Tonight though, it was all that was needed. When things got bad, Orlando continued to bring energy on the defensive end and be patient for the shots to fall. In that sense, it was certainly a good effort and a good sign.

More importantly, it was a start-to-finish win where everyone contributed. Just remember it took me nearly 700 words to mention the team’s leading scorer, Jason Richardson (17 points). That was the kind of solid, all-around win this became.