Carlos Arroyo looks none too pleased during the second half of the Magic's game against the Spurs on Tuesday night. Arroyo scored 17 points, but the Magic fell to the Spurs, 107-97.
Photo by Phelan M. Ebanhack, the Associated Press
When Jameer Nelson (chin contusion) and Hedo Turkoglu (sprained wrist) went down in the first period -- here's John Denton's report -- our guys knew they had to step up, and they did:
- Keyon Dooling responded off the Magic bench with 19 points.
- Carlos Arroyo added 17.
- Rashard Lewis put together another fine game and played Hedo's usual role of aggressor, with 24 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the line.
- Dwight Howard piled-up 24 points and 21 boards on the league's best center.
But not even those fantastic offensive efforts were enough to hold-off the defending champion Spurs. We held an 8-point lead in the third quarter before San Antonio scored 15 straight points, quickly silencing what was a raucous Amway Arena crowd and demonstrating why it has won four of the last seven NBA titles. We had no answer for Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, or Michael Finley (?!), wasting an unusually solid bench effort -- our reserves outscored the Spurs', 42-40 -- and an uncharacteristically horrific shooting night from Tony Parker (4-of-13).
Our guard play undid us tonight. Arroyo and Dooling scored alright themselves, but our other guards combined to score 11 points (3-of-15 FGs, 2-of-6 3FGs, 3-of-7 FTs) in 63 minutes. Sure, Jameer Nelson's absence skews that figure a bit, but that doesn't change the collective ineffectiveness of Keith Bogans, Maurice Evans, and J.J. Redick. On the other end, Finley
's corpse played out of its his body mind, scoring the first 2 points of the game -- and the first 2 of his season-high 24 -- on a give-and-go with Tim Duncan. The Magic are obviously taking notes on how to run their offense through a big-man, but Dwight has neither the court vision (to pass out of the post effectively) nor the shooting touch (to keep defenses honest when he's pushed off the block) to be a viable post playmaker in the Bill Walton/Lakers Shaquille O'Neal/Duncan mold.
This loss drops us to 46-27 on the season and losers of 3 out of our last four games... and 0-2 in games I predicted we'd win. Hopefully, a few days' rest will get us going again, as we have to get motivated to face the Bucks on Friday night. Hedo and Jameer, we're counting on you two to get healthy.
- It was a night for season-highs. In addition to Finley's and Dooling's scoring outputs, Evans posted a career-high 7 assists.
- Howard had another 20-20 game, his first since March 1st versus New York. His previous 20-20 effort came February 13th versus Denver. Perhaps not coincidentally, Stan Van Gundy called Howard out before that game as well.
- The Spurs were called for 18 fouls and the Magic were called for 25, yet the Magic shot more free throws.
- Evidence that the plus/minus stat doesn't accurately tell the whole story when it's applied to only one player: Howard was a minus-14 and Arroyo a minus-15; Parker was a game-best +19. Don't trust it unless it's applied to a unit of players.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this game on the whole, though. On the one hand, we only lost to the World Champions by 10 points even though we were without two of our top-four players; on the other hand, it took superhuman efforts from Arroyo, Dooling, Howard, and Lewis -- not to mention an impressive 41-35 rebounding advantage -- just to pull to lose by 10... at home... when we shot more free throws. Your thoughts?