Magic Crush Nash-Less Suns

The Orlando Magic did something they have really struggled do recently; beat down an inferior opponent. Recently we’ve seen the Magic struggle with the likes of Golden State and Sacramento (twice). Against the Phoenix Suns, the Magic rode a huge third quarter (they outscored Phoenix 26-13 in the third quarter) to overcome a poor defensive star and earn a 111-88 victory.

Dwight Howard led the Magic with 26 points and 15 rebounds while Aaron Brooks had 19 points and 10 assists to lead the Suns.

There Magic got off to another poor defensive start, letting Aaron Brooks, who starting for the injured Steve Nash, get open pull jumpers off of pick-and-rolls and find his way to the rim on several different occasions. Brooks had 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting and dished out seven assists in the first half Overall, the Suns scored 52 points on 21-of-43 shooting (48.8%).

Orlando’s offense was even better. Led by Dwight Howard’s huge first half (18 points, nine rebounds), the Magic shot 24-of-45 from the field (53.3%), 5-of-11 from beyond the arc (45.5%) and 8-of-10 from the free throw line (80.0%) to take a nine point lead into the half.

In the second half, Orlando turned up the defensive intensity and absolutely dominated the Suns. The Suns shot just 4-of-19 in the third quarter and were held to just 13 points. That allowed the Magic to push the lead to as large as 28. The Suns made a small charge to cut the lead to 98-82 in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy got the starters up to return to the game but the Magic responded with an 8-0 run to push the lead back to 24, keeping the starters on the bench.

After the jump, you can read more thoughts and observations from the game.

Dwight Howard had it going right away. He dominated Robins Lopez immediately and forced him into a couple of quick fouls. Howard continued to dominate inside and on the glass, scoring 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting. He also added 15 rebounds and five blocks.

Pretty much everyone outside of Jason Richardson (10 points on 4-of-14 shooting) and Ryan Anderson (11 points on 3-of-10 shooting) had it going on offense. The team posted an effective field goal percentage of 50.0% and if you take out both Anderson and Richardson’s poor shooting performances, they were 32-of-62 from the field.

Orlando’s defense looked terrible early on again. They were getting abused by the Aaron Brooks-Marcin Gortat pick-and-roll. Gortat and Brooks combined to score 29 points on 13-of-16 shooting in the first half. In the second half, the Magic turned up the intensity, made better rotations and defended the pick-and-roll much better. Brooks was held scoreless in the second half on 0-of-4 shooting while Gortat scored two points on 1-of-3 shooting.

Although some of it was in garbage time, Gilbert Arenas had a nice day, scoring 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He hit a couple of threes (2-of-4) and was more aggressive, trying to get to the hoop and drawing fouls (he was 4-of-5 from the stripe). He collected five rebounds and three steals as well. That’s exactly the kind of game the Magic need out of Arenas if they’re going to be successful in the postseason.

It was good for the Magic to get a big third quarter lead and get their players some rest. Only Howard (34 minutes) and Jason Richardson (33 minutes) played more than 30 minutes. That’s key for the Magic, who will head to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Monday night.

Credit should go to Earl Clark because his three-foot jumper with 47 seconds left gave the Magic 111 points thus giving Central Florida resident half off their online orders at Papa John’s Monday with the code MAGICWIN.

Next Up: The Magic will be in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Monday night in another nationally televised game (10:30 pm EST, ESPN).

Final Thought: It was good for the Magic to get a big lead and actually blow out an inferior opponent.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger 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).

Tags: Aaron Brooks Brandon Bass Chris Duhon Dwight Howard Earl Clark Gilbert Arenas Hedo Turkoglu J.j. Redick Jameer Nelson Jason Richardson Marcin Gortat Mickael Pietrus Orlando Magic Phoenix Suns Quentin Richardson Ryan Anderson Stan Van Gundy Steve Nash Vince Carter

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