Magic Take Down Nuggets

“I think that was one of our best wins of the year,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy told reporters after Orlando’s 103-97 victory over the Denver Nuggets Sunday evening.

“I’m really happy and proud of our guys,”Van Gundy added. “I thought that our fight and competitiveness was tremendous – that’s a very tough team to play against.”

The Magic overcame some defensive lapses and poor shooting in the first half and took over in the final period to earn the victory. Vince Carter, who played less than two minutes after spraining the big toe on his right foot, was replaced by J.J. Redick. Redick was more than adequate, scoring 23 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds. Carmelo Anthony led the Nuggets with 26 points.

The first half and the second half were completey different stories for the Magic. Although Orlando was able to take a one-point lead into the break, Orlando was shooting poorly from the field (19-of-43, 44.2%) and from the three-point line (3-of-13, 23.1%). Denver shot the ball very well from the field (22-of-41, 53.7%) and from the three-point line (4-of-7, 57.1%), but the Magic earned 15 trips to the free throw line (hitting 11) and only turned the ball over three times.

In the second half, the Magic shot 20-of-36 from the field (55.6%) and 8-of-16 (50.0%) from beyond the arc while holding the Nuggets to 51.3% shooting from the field (20-of-39) and more importantly, 11.1% from downtown (1-of-9), holding the Nuggets to 46 second half points.

Matt Barnes, who had an excellent day of offensively – he scored 16 points of 6-of-10 shooting, had the extremely difficult task of guarding Carmelo Anthony. It’s virtually impossible to shut Anthony down, but Barnes did a good job. Anthony scored 26 points, but it took him 25 shots to do it. Anthony looked frustrated at many points during the game, especially when Barnes saved a ball from going out-of-bounds by throwing it off of Anthony.

“He (Anthony ) is a tough guy to guard,” Dwight Howard told reporters. “We all understand that. It’s not that easy, trying to guard him one-on-one but also trying to be there to help Matt on the first dribble. I told coach and Matt said the same thing – he was really going to get into him, force him to drive and everybody has to help.”

Speaking of Howard, Van Gundy described his performance best after the game when he said “Dwight was Dwight.” Howard has some struggles and did not shoot the ball nearly as well as he usually does (he went 7-o-15 from the field) but he did managed to score 18 points and grab 11 rebounds. Howard’s defense got better and better as the game went on. It looked as though he got a better understanding of the Denver offense as the game progressed and was altering more and more shots later in the game.

“He (Howard) was getting banged around down there,” Van Gundy said. “It was frustrating, he held his composure, got some really big rebounds and I think changed a lot of shots.”

Ryan Anderson was unconscious. Anderson scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting. Can’t get much more efficient than that. Four of Anderson’s baskets were three-pointers and he hit his lone free throw. Anderson Van Gundy to give Rashard Lewis some minutes at Small Forward because Anderson was absolutely on fire. To toot Anderson’s horn some more, his effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage were both 112%.

“He (Anderson) was actually a lot better today even than he was the other night,” Van Gundy told the press. “I thought he got involved in the battle down there on the boards also.”

And he was – Anderson grabbed five rebounds in just over 20 minutes of play.

The big story of the night was J.J. Redick. Redick, who was very happy that his alma mater, Duke, defeated Baylor, earning a trip for the final four, celebrated by having possibly his best and most complete game as a professional. Redick, who replaced Vince Carter just one minute and thirty-five seconds into the game, played the entire rest of the way. Van Gundy talked about Redick’s minutes after the game.

“I thought the key to J.J.’s performance was that rest I gave him at the beginning of the game, that 1:35, so he could be fresh,” Van Gundy joked.

Redick scored 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting, was 3-of-7 from beyond the arc and hit a couple of huge three-pointers down the stretch. But Redick did so much more than just score. Redick did a great job of getting his teammates involved, dishing out eight assists. Perhaps an even more impressive feat was that Redick also managed to grab seven rebounds.

“He was tremendous,” Van Gundy said. “And that was the most we have had anyone play this year, and look, he played great, but I think if you’re somebody out there watching, what you have to know and we see every day and appreciate is he is one of
the best, if not the best, conditioned guys in this league.”

Redick played a 46 minutes and 25 seconds, more than any other Magic player has played this season.

“Seven rebounds for him is incredible,” Van Gundy added. “Eight assists to go with that shooting.”

Dwight Howard summed up the night for the Magic.

“Really, tonight’s story was J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson,” Howard said. “Those guys really played big.”

Game Notes:

  • J.J. Redick set career-highs in minutes played, rebounds, and assists.
  • The last time Orlando’s top two scorers came off the bench was on April 19th, 2006 when Carlos Arroyo scored 17 points and Keyon Dooling scored 15 points.
  • It was the seventh consecutive time Denver and Orlando split their season series.
  • Orlando is now 28-14 vs Denver all-time and 19-3 at home.
  • Six players were in double figures for the Magic – Redick 23, Anderson 19, Howard 18, Barnes 16, Jameer Nelson 15, & Rashard Lewis 10).
  • It was the third game in a row that six players scored in double figures. Orlando is 20-1 when they do that this season.
  • It was Howard’s 58th double-double.

Next Up: The Magic don’t play again until Thursday in Dallas against the Mavericks so they have some time to get Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter healthy.

Final Thought: It’s good to see the Magic tune up for the playoffs by beating one of the NBA’s elite teams.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks and Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).

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