Dwight Howard absolutely dominated from the opening whistle and the Orlando Magic overcame a poor shooting night from the outside to defeat the Toronto Raptors 92-88.
Howard finished with 36 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Magic while DeMar DeRozan poured in 23 points for the Raptors.
With Orlando and more specifically Dwight Howard, unable to convert from the free throw line, the Magic didn’t score from the 2:58 mark of the fourth quarter until there were nine seconds left in the game. During the span, Toronto cut Orlando’s lead from nine to two before J.J. Redick hit a dagger three-pointer from the corner. Redick then iced the game with a couple of free throws, giving Orlando a 92-88 victory.
Dwight Howard was phenomenal throughout the game and had probably his best offensive outing of the season. He had it all going Monday night – he went to his hook at times, then used his drop step to go the other way and throw defenders off. He even called for the ball from further out than usual and used a dribble or two to get into the paint and get good looks. Of course, Howard was awful from the free throw line (4-of-14) and helped the Raptors stay in the game until the end, but he finished with 36 points on 16-of-20 shooting. At times, he even looked a little tired, because he was going so hard – he made some nice hustle plays, including a great chase down block in the second half. After the game, Howard seemed upset with the way he finished the game – he wants to be able to close games out and clearly can’t when he’s shooting like that at the line. However, it’s tough to find anything else wrong with Howard’s game Monday night.
For the most part, the Magic did a good job of defending the Toronto pick-and-roll, something they have traditionally struggled with. Jose Calderon, usually the spark for that pick-and-roll, was kept at bay. Calderon scored just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting. Jerryd Bayless and DeMar DeRozan each did a pretty good job of getting to the basket and drawing fouls. Bayless had an extremely efficient 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting and hit five of six free throws. It took DeRozan 22 shots to get his 22 points.
On the flip side, it looked like Jameer Nelson was going to get going early Monday, but instead, he struggled. Nelson had to take 10 shots to get his 11 points. He did dish out six assists, but turned the ball over five times as well. Hedo Turkoglu was held scoreless, but did manage to dish out nine assists.
- Ryan Anderson grabbed 11 first half rebounds and finished with 13 for the game. He didn’t make his first three-pointer until the fourth quarter, but still managed to put up 19 points (on 7-of-16 shooting).
- J.J. Redick had an awful night from the field (3-of-10) and missed two free throws in a game for the first time season (he entered the game having miss four total free throws this season). However, he was aggressive, hit three of Orlando’s nine three-pointers and still managed to score 13 points. He also did a good job of getting his teammates involved, dishing out six assists, including a flashy alley-oop to Howard that you will probably see on highlight reels late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
- The Magic shot 44.3% from the field, 32.1% from beyond the arc and 46.4% from the free throw line.
Next Up: The Magic will be in Charlotte to take on the Bobcats Tuesday night.
Final Thought: Its nice to see the Magic get a win when they have a tough night shooting the ball and its always great to see Dwight Howard take over a game like he did Monday.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. 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: Amir Johnson Andrea Bargnani Chris Duhon Demar Derozan Dwight Howard Ed Davis Glen Davis Hedo Turkoglu J.j. Redick Jameer Nelson Jason Richardson Jose Calderon Larry Hughes Orlando Magic Quentin Richardson Ryan Anderson Stan Van Gundy Toronto Raptors Von Wafer