Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, the Associated Press
Once again, the Magic came out flat against an inferior opponent, and despite a furious fourth-quarter rally in which they matched their first-half scoring with 38 points, the Orlando Magic fell short, 104-100, to the shorthanded Sacramento Kings. Here's the boxscore. And here's the Game Flow, which shows just how in-control Sacramento was for the whole game.
I confess: I tuned out of this game early in the fourth quarter because I needed sleep, which is a polite way of saying I didn't think there was any way in Hell we would win. But based on the approximately 39 minutes of basketball I did listen to, we were thoroughly outhustled and outplayed by a team that simply wanted to win more than we did.
After the game -- I did listen to the post-game show while getting ready for bed -- Stan Van Gundy called out Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for not playing their hardest, especially defensively. Dwight had a gaudy linescore: (27 points on 11-of-13 shooting, 15 rebounds) but he managed just one measly blocked shot. He also allowed Mikki Moore to grab 5 offensive rebounds and failed to discourage Beno Udrih from penetrating and dishing the ball out to open shooters. When Udrih wasn't doing that, he was finishing at the rim, with 16 first-half points.
For the first time this season, I'm comfortable saying Rashard Lewis was our best player. It only took him 36 games, but hey. Better late than never. Anyway, Lewis nailed 6 triples on his way to scoring 22 points, his highest scoring output since a post-Christmas outburst of 26 against the Knicks.
For us, it's time to hit the Panic Button. 22-14 is still a nice record, but it's also the same record that we had at this time last season. Changing the starting backcourt worked briefly, but in the past few games the team has still come out flat. It's not the lineup that's getting us off to horrible starts; it's something else. Attitude? Motivation? Bad mojo? Either way, something needs to change. Maybe that something is J.J. Redick's playing time. Redick made a rare non-garbage time appearance and scored 10 points in 8 minutes, leading the Magic's late rally. Considering the struggles of our other two-guards (Keyon Dooling and Keith Bogans combined for 8 points on 2-of-10 shooting), it might be time for Stan to consider putting J.J. in the rotation.
Here's a boxscore-related anomaly: the Magic's quarter-by-quarter scoring got better as the game went on (18, 20, 24, 38), but the Kings' was fairly consistent (26, 27, 25, 26). I wonder if there's anything to that...?
Anyway, it's back to the grind as the Magic play yet another mediocre, injury-riddled team (tonight, it's the Clippers) on the road tonight. Maybe we can right the ship with a victory, which would be our first of calendar year 2008.
Did I really just type that? We can "right the ship" with a victory over the Clippers. Where has this season gone?