Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic's second unit helped the Magic overcome an early 15-point deficit against the lowly Washington Wizards to win their 8th straight game, 109-95, in runaway fashion. Howard scored 28 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, while backup shooting guard J.J. Redick scored 10 of his 18 points in the second quarter to ignite Orlando's once-stagnant offense. With Howard in the middle, Redick and Jason Williams in the backcourt, and Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus up front, Orlando scored on 13 of its first 14 possessions of the second quarter, turning a 33-20 deficit into a 50-45 lead before coming up empty on another possession. The Wizards' roster is mostly bereft of talent after two significant trading deadline deals, and they could only rely on three players to deliver offensively tonight, which was their third game in as many nights. Andray Blatche continued his post-All-Star break brilliance with a game-high 32 points, while 10-day contract signee Shaun Livingston scored 18 with 8 assists in his best all-around performance since attempting to recover from the gruesome knee injury that nearly ended his career 3 years ago. Al Thornton rounded out Washington's cast of double-figure scorers with 15 points, and that trio accounted for almost all of Washington's offense before it threw in the towel.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Of the Magic's 8 straight wins, this one is likely their least impressive, given that they let one of the league's least talented teams score 33 points against them in the first quarter in its third game in as many nights. Rashard Lewis picked up two quick fouls trying to check Blatche, which pressed Brandon Bass into duty much earlier than expected. He didn't fare any better against Blatche than Lewis did--Blatche scored 15 points in the first quarter--but he held his own on the offensive glass. The second unit's outstanding second-quarter play overshadowed any of the bad from the first quarter, and the starters re-grouped for a strong early third-period run which basically decided the game. Howard and Jameer Nelson connected on a series of transition alley-oops, and Howard had his way in the low post against whomever the Wizards put against him. None of this is news: Washington's a poor defensive team with no one up front who can realistically challenge Howard. Its double-teams enabled him to find cutters on their way to the rim, which helped him post 5 assists. It's what you should expect from Howard, which speaks to how dominant he is: 11-of-13 shooting for 28 points in 37 minutes is to be expected. Yeah.
So the real takeaway here, in a mid-March game against a lottery opponent, is this: the bench bailed out what was a poor first effort from the starters. Redick's uncanny ability to draw shooting fouls on the perimeter, thanks to that ball-fake of his, proved invaluable today. That he managed to shoot well away from the foul line--5-of-9--was icing, really. Orlando needed his efficiency from the wing, as Vince Carter needed 18 shots to score 18 points and failed to get to the foul line for the first time in three weeks.
Bass? Statistically and otherwise, tonight was his most active game in a Magic uniform: 16 points and a season-high 9 rebounds (4 offensive) to go with a career-high 5 turnovers. He's obviously much more comfortable knowing that backup power forward slot is his and his alone, for now. Coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game that Bass is "still learning what we're doing defensively," but also praised his energy and called him "instrumental" to the Magic's success tonight. Though I have my doubts that he and Howard are a viable everyday combination at the power positions, they excelled together tonight due to Washington's lack of size, as well as the Wizards' tendency to pay Howard too much attention.
Going forward, the Magic must curb their turnovers, having committed 17 tonight in a low-possession game. But right now, the team is really rolling, winning by an average of 18.1 points during its streak.