The Orlando Magic gave an absolutely pathetic effort Friday night and they paid for it with a 110-106 home loss to one of the league’s worst teams, the now 2-7 Toronto Raptors. Orlando’s defense was to blame for the loss – they allowed the Raptors to score 110 points and shoot 50% from the field. Offensively, outside of 16 turnovers, Orlando played well – they shot 52.7% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc (12-of-24). The Magic were able to close a 10-point gap and tied the game at 103 on a Mickael Pietrus 3-pointer but gave up a 3-pointer to Sonny Weems on the other end. Orlando couldn’t get the ball in bounds on their next possession and were forced to call a timeout. After the timeout, Dwight Howard missed his screen, the Magic couldn’t get anyone open and Pietrus threw the inbounds pass away, effectively ending any hope for a Magic victory. It was probably a fitting ending because with the effort the Magic gave, they had no business winning this game.
- The Magic didn’t have much an answer for Andrea Bargnani. He had 27 points on 11-of-23 shooting. The only positive that cam out of the Orlando defense was the way Brandon Bass was able to slow him during the fourth quarter. Bass’ play during that stretch was the only bright spot during a disaterous defensive performance. Bass played all but 42 seconds of the fourth quarter as Van Gundy opted to go with him rather than Rashard Lewis, who was ineffective again (6 points on 2-of-5 shooting).
- Mickael Pietrus was back in the rotation and he hit 8 of his 11 3-point attempts to finish with 24 points. Pietrus did throw the ball away at the end of the game, but Van Gundy said a poor coaching decision and a missed screen were the reasons why. Van Gundy praised Pietrus’ shooting but was upset he only grabbed 2 rebounds in 30 minutes, saying Pietrus is “way too athletic” to not grab more.
- Dwight Howard was Dwight Howard, finishing with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. Howard really needs to get used to the NBA’s technical foul rules – he picked up his fifth tech of the season Friday night.
- Flashy DeMar DeRozan was one of the stars for Toronto – he had 26 points on just 13 shots.
- While DeRozan got to the free throw line 12 times, Vince Carter attempted 0 free throws and finished with just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Carter didn’t start being more aggressive until late in the game and it shows with that stat line. The Magic need a smart, aggressive Carter if they’re going to go anywhere this season.
- Chris Duhon continues to struggle in the backup point guard role. Van Gundy took notice, giving him just 11-and-a-half minutes.
- On the other hand, Jameer Nelson was very good offensively. He scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and dished out 8 assists. When Nelson has been healthy this season, he’s been fantastic, looking a lot like the all-star he was during the 2008-09 season.
- After starting 4 of the first 8 games, Ryan Anderson did not play Friday night.
- This was the first time the Magic lost two straight home games since March 25, 2008 and April 1, 2008 when they fell to the San Antonio Spurs (107-97) and New Orleans Hornets (98-97).
- The Magic had previously won 41 straight games when shooting over 50% from the field.
Next Up: Orlando will be in New Jersey to face the Nets Saturday night.
Final Thought: Defense and turnovers are huge issues for the Magic right now. Luckily, both issues appear to be correctable.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, co-host of CB Sports Radio from 5-7 pm week days (1420sports.com) and ESPN 1080′s Magic Insider (http://espn1080.com). Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).