AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Magic Drop Third Straight Game

The Magic finally got off to a quick start, but were dominated by the Toronto Raptors during the middle two quarters and their late rally fell short as they lost 108-103. It was Orlando’s third straight loss and the first time Orlando has lost three consecutive games since January of 2008 (if you don’t count their three game losing streak at the end of last season when they were resting players).

One of Orlando’s biggest problems this season has been the way they have started games. That was not a problem for Orlando on Wednesday night. Dwight Howard got off to a good start, because the Magic finally did a good job of getting Howard the ball and Howard finally did a good job of getting into good position, allowing him to score nine first quarter points on 4-of-5 shooting. Jameer Nelson added seven points and three assists as the Magic shot 62.5% and took a 27-23 lead after one.

The Magic scored the first four points of the second quarter to extend their lead to eight. Then, things got ugly. The Raptors used runs of 18-to-6 and 15-to-5 to give them a 58-49 halftime lead. The Magic shot just 6-of-20 in the second period. Toronto, on the other hand, was shooting 61.5% at the half.

The Raptors continued their domination during the third quarter. Orlando made just five shots in the period and the Raptors, after allowing the Magic to get within six on back-to-back Rashard Lewis 3-pointers, ended the quarter on a 17-5 run and had their biggest lead of the game, 86-68.

After cutting Toronto’s lead to 10, the Raptors scored six straight points to give them a 96-80 lead. The Magic cut it to 10 again but Hedo Turkoglu’s 3-pointer with 5:11 to go gave Toronto a 111-88 lead. Orlando played excellent defense the rest of the way and went on a 13-2 run, capped by a Vince Carter dunk with 35 seconds left. After forcing Hedo Turkoglu into a bad shot, the Magic could not get the rebound and Vince Carter knocked the ball out of bounds. The Magic fouled Jarrett Jack, who made just one free throw. Orlando ran a play for J.J. Redick but he missed the potential game-tying shot. Toronto made their free throws and ended the game.

For those of you who are wondering why Redick got the last shot, Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy discussed Redick’s shot after the game.

“He was drifting on it but he got some space. He got some space, we set a good screen. And then there’s the other options on it if he didn’t have the shot, but I don’t think I would have wanted him to pass the shot up. He just didn’t get quite straight up and down, he was drifting. He’s pretty good coming off those, I knew he wasn’t having a great night, but nobody really was. I thought about going to Rashard, but they’re switching everything so you’re going to have to get it on the dead run. That’s not as much Rashard’s forte as maybe J.J.’s. Plus, I’d worn Rashard out I think, playing him the whole second half. So that’s why I went where I went. And, I thought it was – I’m going to say a great look, but a decent look for where we were. It just didn’t go down.”

Redick thought he was going to hit the shot.

“It felt good off my hands. It was lined up. Everything looked good. It just went short.”

Unfortunately, Redick did not have a good shooting night, but he continued to do an excellent job of drawing fouls. Redick, who was just 5-of-14 from the field and 2-of-8 from beyond the arc, was 10-of-11 from the charity stripe. He finished with 22 points. Redick’s improving ability to get the basket and growing confidence were some positives to take away from the game.

Early in the game, it looked like Dwight Howard was going to dominate. He scored nine first quarter points but turned the ball over four times, which was a sign of things to come. Howard looked anxious to make something happen and it resulted in him frequently turning the ball over. Turnovers weren’t his only problem – Howard didn’t have a good game defensively at all. He nearly had a triple double that he wanted no part of, finishing with 20 points, 12 rebounds and nine turnovers.

As I mentioned earlier, I thought Rashard Lewis needed to get more shots and be a much bigger part of the offense. On Wednesday night, that finally happened. Lewis was 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-10 from downtown. He finished the game with 24 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals. Without some of his timely shooting, this game could have been very ugly.

Jameer Nelson played well. As bad as Orlando’s team defense was against Toronto, the Point Guards, Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon, didn’t really hurt the Magic. Nelson scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and continued to do an excellent job of getting the ball to his teammates, dishing out eight assists.

Vince Carter seemed invisible. He attempted just seven shots and hit only two. He scored seven points and had four assists. To Carter’s credit, Van Gundy said that Carter made some good passes.

The Magic had 10 offensive rebounds to Toronto’s two but the two teams grabbed the same amount of total rebounds – 35, but the Raptors shot the ball very well so it didn’t really give the Magic a chance to grab a lot of boards on the defensive end.

Orlando played no defense against one of the most efficient offensive teams in the NBA. The Raptors shot an effective field goal percentage of 61.2% and the Magic shot just47.9%. The Raptors seemingly did whatever they wanted, however they wanted. They scored from all over the court, hitting 13 shots at the rim, three from inside 10 feet, one from 10-15 feet, 13-23 from 16-23 feet and nine from beyond the arc. They also had six players score in double figures with no player scoring over 18 points.

Stan Van Gundy attempted to offer up his own explanation for the loss, but really didn’t know what to say.

“I mean obviously another very tough night and I really don’t know what else to say, we’re just not playing very well.

Van Gundy also said that turnovers were another big problem for the Magic. Orlando committed 14 and they led to 17 Raptor points.

Game Notes:

  • Jameer Nelson agreed with Van Gundy when he said that the Magic were simply not giving a good effort.
  • Ryan Anderson received a DNP as Van Gundy played Brandon Bass instead. Van Gundy, who was critical of several players, offered some praise for Bass, saying he “tried hard.”
  • Bass scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and made a few good hustle and defensive plays in 11 minutes of work. “When we lack energy, I can bring that.”
  • Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis were dressed and out of the locker room before the media even arrived.
  • During one stretch of play, Chris Bosh beat Dwight Howard on a spin move for a dunk and smiled and pointed at him. A few possessions later, Howard returned the favor but dunking on Bosh.
  • Dwight Howard recorded the 900th block of his career but also tied a franchise record for most turnovers in a half. Terry Catledge had seven first half turnovers against Boston in 1990.
  • Chris Bosh recorded his league-leading 26th double-double. It was Dwight Howard’s 25th.

Next Up: Orlando travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Friday.

Final Thought: This team just lacks energy and has been given poor efforts.

(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.)

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