The Orlando Magic began their four-game road trip in winning fashion Sunday evening, topping the Sacramento Kings, 104-97, despite having star center Dwight Howard mired in foul trouble for much of the game. Through the first three periods, he logged 7:34 of court time, with no points, no rebounds, an assist, and a turnover, yet Orlando headed into the fourth period with a two-point edge on the Kings. That's thanks largely to the efforts of Glen Davis, who filled in admirably for Howard, scoring a season-high 20 points and hauling in eight boards (five on the offensive glass) in just 28 minutes. Jason Richardson stepped up offensively as well, feasting on the Kings' iffy perimeter defense with a team-high 22 points.
With Howard sidelined, the Magic had no one to discourage drives to the lane, allowing Kings guard Tyreke Evans, the 2009/10 Rookie of the Year, to get to the rim almost at will. Richardson respected Evans' outside shot far more than he ought to have, and Evans took advantage by using his quick first step and yo-yo handle to get to the basket and draw contact.
Despite Evans' performance and Howard's absence, Orlando managed to pull out the win with hustle throughout and timely shooting in the fourth period. Though the Kings won the rebounding battle, 45-43, Orlando seemed to reach loose balls more quickly than the Kings did, and its determination to crash the offensive boards helped it secure a 20-8 advantage in second-chance points. In addition, the Magic outrebounded the Kings by an 18-8 margin in the fourth period, which went a long way toward putting the game away.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2010/11 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2010/11 average.
But the game, as it so often does, came down to shooting. A deep three from Richardson, his third of the game, broke an 87-all tie to give the Magic the lead for good. Three possessions later, Hedo Turkoglu banked in a stepback triple from the right wing to beat the shot clock and push Orlando's lead to four. And Sacramento native Ryan Anderson drilled the clinching trey from the left corner, putting his hometown team in an eight-point hole with 90 seconds to play.
Davis helped keep Orlando in the game when he was needed most, namely in the first and third periods. Howard played fewer than four minutes combined in those quarters, but it scarcely mattered--not from an offensive standpoint, anyway--because Davis put in 17 points in his 18 first- and third-quarter minutes.
Orlando doesn't use Davis the same way it uses Howard, clearly, as he relies heavily on his jump shot--either by facing up or by picking and popping--whereas Howard is almost exclusively a back-to-basket player. But his production in those periods mirrored what one might have expected Howard to post, and so the Magic essentially broke even, if one accepts the premise outlined above.
I don't mean to attribute all of Orlando's win to Davis, but he was by far its most important player Sunday. His standout performance overshadows some other strong showings that deserve mention. Though just a notch above a sieve defensively, Richardson played brilliantly at the other end of the court. He played a more dynamic role in the offense, putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim; his shot mix of 10 two-pointers and six threes attests to that.
Seldom-used shooting guard Von Wafer, who arrived with Davis via trade with the Boston Celtics prior to training camp, also buoyed the Magic with strong perimeter offense. He has the quickest first step Orlando's had since Steve Francis, and while that point may say more about the Magic's paucity of athletic wings in the last several years than it says about Wafer, it's nonetheless true. He used that first step to great effect Sunday, creating separation from the defense. Quickness doesn't mean much unless one can convert a shot or draw a foul, of course, but Wafer did that. All told, Wafer put in 12 points in 17 minutes (4-of-7 shooting, 3-of-4 on the foul line) and made a strong case for inclusion in coach Stan Van Gundy's regular playing rotation, though he'll have to battle Richardson and J.J. Redick for minutes at shooting guard.
And one has to term Sunday's game a success from Ryan Anderson's perspective. Though he shot just 5-of-16 from the field, he contributed elsewhere, snaring 11 rebounds and drawing eight free-throw attempts. He played better-than-expected team defense as well. He's come under fire from Van Gundy often in the young season for not playing his best unless his shots are dropping. He responded Sunday.
So yes, Orlando needed to hold off a rally from a poor team to earn a victory Sunday, but in context, there are several positives. The excellent energy from tip to horn, getting a win away frmo Amway Center, Anderson's breaking his slump, Davis' boost, Wafer's best Jamal Crawford impression... impressive, all to varying degrees.