Magic Showing Improvement
After Saturday night’s 88-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy called the game the “best win of the season.” The Magic were playing without forwards Ryan Anderson, Quentin Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando got both Anderson and Richardson back Monday night against the Detroit Pistons, but were missing their superstar center Dwight Howard, who missed his third game with back spasms. The Magic absolutely destroyed the Pistons en route to a 119-89 victory. Van Gundy was again very excited, saying the Magic played even better.
“We played better tonight on an offensive standpoint,” Van Gundy said. “Our competitive level was high.”
All five Magic starters scored in double figures in their win over the Pistons and they were even able to empty their bench, finishing the game with a lineup of Daniel Orton, Earl Clark, Justin Harper, Von Wafer and Ish Smith.
“Everybody moved the ball,” Van Gundy explained. “Everybody deserves credit.
The Magic have not been nearly as good on defense this season as they have in years past, but they’ve been much better lately.
“I just think these last couple of games, especially the Philly game, we’ve been on the same page,” Glen Davis explained. “Just the same page defensively, energy-wise, everybody’s trying to read the book and be on the same page.
Davis has been one of the biggest reasons for Orlando’s success over the last two games. In fact, Davis has started the last five games and averaged 20.6 points and 10.2 rebounds.
“His play certainly warrants big minutes,” Van Gundy said.
Many questioned Orlando’s effort, energy and even some of the team’s energy and although some of that was overblown by the media, one of Orlando’s captains admitted the Magic have played harder lately.
“One thing is we’re playing a lot harder, especially on the defensive end,” said Jameer Nelson.
Nelson pointed out that their improved defense can lead to easy buckets on the other end.
“I think our defense and rebounding is generating a lot of our offense,” Nelson explained. “You get a stop, get loose balls, that kind of gives you more energy out there.”
Van Gundy has been very pleased with his team’s effort and hopes they can continue their recent trend through the postseason.
“Let’s hope we make this a habit,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy’s players have taken notice as well.
“When we don’t turn the ball over, we’re making shots and we’re playing defense, we’re tough,” said Davis.
“I’m really happy that we’re headed this way because at the end of the day, championship basketball, you have to play this way.”
Ryan Anderson, Quentin Richardson Return
Forwards Ryan Anderson (sprained right ankle) and Quentin Richardson (sore back) returned the rotation Monday night.
Anderson scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just under 23 minutes while Richardson scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in just over 25 minutes.
“It felt a lot better than I thought it would feel tonight,” Anderson said. “That’s a good thing.”
With Dwight Howard still nursing a bad back, the Magic need Anderson, their second-leading scorer, to give the Magic some punch offensively.
After a slow start Monday night, Anderson began to find his footing.
“It took me a few minutes of playing full contact,” Anderson explained. “Especially going to get rebounds and playing physcially, it took me a little to get used to it.”
Although he had his ankle heavily taped and iced after the game, Anderson clearly wasn’t affected by the injury too much.
“After a few minutes, once I got my confidence back in my ankle, I felt good, almost 100%,” said Anderson.
With Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic need all of the help they can get. Despite their injuries, the team has not lost confidence in each other.
“We’ve been banged up, gone through a lot as a team, especially the last weeks,” Anderson explained. “And I think we’re really just having each other’s backs and we’re working hard for each other.”
More Time For Ish?
Early on Monday, the Magic held shootaround, something they normally do on game days. However, backup point guard Chris Duhon was not in attendance and didn’t alert anyone within the Magic organization that he wouldn’t be attending. In fact, he didn’t talk to anyone until after the conclusion of shootaround.
Due to that infraction, Duhon was suspended for Monday night’s game, giving way to Ish Smith, who appeared in a game for just the 14th time this season. Smith played just under 19 minutes and had one of the most effective games of his career.
“He played extremely well,” said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. “That certainly helped the whole unit play well.”
Smith finished with six points, seven assists and just a single turnover.
“Ish was fantastic” said Van Gundy.
Chris Duhon’s tough season has been well documented. The veteran point guard hasn’t been very aggressive and is turning the ball over at an alarming rate of 28.1% (the second highest turnover rate of his career – his turnover rate was 30.3%) last season.
With the struggles of Duhon, you’d think a change would be exactly what the Magic need, but Van Gundy doesn’t appear like he’s going to make a move this season.
“He played very well tonight, but again, tonight, everybody played well,” Van Gundy explained.
It sounds like Duhon will again be the backup point guard upon his return Tuesday night.
(Andrew Melnick is the ESPNFlorida.com Magic and NBA Insider, co-host of the ESPN 1080 Insiders Show and publisher of Howard the Dunk. The Insiders Show can be heard Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST on AM 1080 in Orlando and on ESPNFlorida.com. You can follow Andrew on twitter here.)