The Orlando Magic were on a roll early Sunday night, getting out to a 42-17 lead. The Magic seemed to ease up a bit and scored just 10 points in the third quarter but still managed to come away with a 94-85 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers to end their four game losing streak. Dwight Howard has a quiet night through three quarters but scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the final frame to help put the Clippers away. Eric Gordon led all scorers with 28 points while rookie Blake Griffin filled the stat-sheet, scoring 27 points, grabbing 16 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists.
For those that still thing Dwight Howard can’t carry a team or make big baskets when the Magic need them, you need to watch this game. Howard was fantastic and scored 13 of Orlando’s 25 points. Howard finished the game with 22 points and 8 rebounds in just under 25 minutes. He picked up his fourth foul early in the second half with the Magic up 17 and the Clippers began to close the gap as the Magic scored just 10 points in the period.
- The Magic pushed the pace early in the game and it really worked – they scored 35 first half points and had a 21-point lead at the conclusion of the first quarter.
- Blake Griffin can really play. Not only did he have his typical highlight reel dunks but he scored 27 points (but it take 23 shots) and grabbed 16 rebounds despite playing on obviously tired legs.
- The Clippers may be 5-20 but there are some pieces in place. Eric Gordon (28 points) can really score.
- Although Gordon and Griffin combined to score 55 points, it took them 46 shots to do it. The Magic only gave up 85 points on 38.1% shooting and forced the Clippers in a lot of bad shots so overall, you have to be pleased with their defensive performance.
- Brandon Bass started the game and often had to match up with Griffin. Bass really held his own, scoring 13 and grabbing 11 rebounds, giving him the first double-double of his Magic career. Bass didn’t shoot well (6-of-13) but played with more energy and was much more active, which is exactly what the Magic need Bass to do.
- Mickael Pietrus has been the odd man out when Bass has started but Sunday night, it was Quentin Richardson who received a “DNP – Coach’s Decision.” Pietrus played 30 minutes and shot very poorly (4 points on 1-of-8 shooting) but managed to grab 4 rebounds. Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy has repeatedly said Pietrus needs to use his athleticism to grab more boards.
- Vince Carter hit the boards hard, grabbing 7 rebounds but he scored just 13 points on 12 shots.
- Marcin Gortat obviously isn’t Dwight Howard but he did a pretty good job filling in for the league’s best Center while he was sitting out with foul trouble. Gortat obviously can’t score like Howard but he did manage to score 4 points on 2-of-2 shooting and grab 9 rebounds.
- Jameer Nelson continues to play at an All-Star level and put up All-Star numbers – he had 17 points and 9 assists and just looked really comfortable running the offense.
Next Up: The Magic will wrap up their road trip in Denver against Carmelo Anthony (for now) and the Nuggets Tuesday night.
Final Thought: What appeared to be an easy victory became a fight but the Magic have to be happy they snapped their losing streak.
(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).