With Dwight Howard dominating both ends of the floor, the Orlando Magic turned what had been a hotly contested game against the Sacramento Kings into a blowout, winning by a 109-88 final. The Magic, who trailed after 3 quarters, outscored the Kings, 33-10, in the final period to stop their road losing streak at 3 games. And as is usually the case with the Magic, victory would have been impossible without Dwight Howard. The big man scored a season-high 30 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, handed out 5 assists, recorded 3 steals, and blocked 3 shots in an incredible all-around effort. The Magic ran their offense through him in the post for almost the entire game--he played 42 minutes--and saw results. His strong effort overshadows some impressive performances from reserves Mickael Pietrus (18 points, 10 rebounds, good shot selection), Jason Williams (12 points, 6 assists in only 22 minutes), and Ryan Anderson (12 points on 5 shots, with 5 boards). The Kings scored on just 3 of their first 13 fourth-quarter possessions, allowing three-fifths of Orlando's second unit (with starters Howard and J.J. Redick) to take control of the game. Howard became the first player since Tim Duncan in January 2009 to tally at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks in a game. Adding 3 steals to those criteria shows he's the first player since LeBron James in January 2008 to post such numbers.
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
Orlando's game plan early was to attack Sacramento's defensively deficient frontline with Howard often, letting him dictate the flow of the offense. The Kings made him work hard for everything, too, varying their double-team coverage of him, sometimes a few different ways in a single possession. Doubling from the weak side? Sure. Strong side? Yup. Baseline? Yes. Having one defender come to double, then return to his man, only to have another defender drop down? That, too. An interesting--and, in my mind, effective--defensive game plan that the Kings executed well. But when Howard's touch on his hook shots and free throws is as good as it was tonight, and when he's able to resist throwing silly passes in traffic... there's not much another team can do. Make no mistake, this wasn't Howard running the likes of Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson over. Sacramento's big men gave a good effort, as did the wing players who came down on double-teams. Good defense, but even better offense.
It's good that Howard delivered, because his teammates were uncharacteristically cold from the field: Redick, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, and Matt Barnes combined to shoot 12-of-34 for 35 points. Nelson shot at least one airball and badly bricked another jumper, and Redick bricked another pair. Luckily for Orlando, Pietrus and Williams asserted themselves with drives to the basket to boost Orlando's offense. The Kings' lack of shot-blocking on the interior really hurt their chances tonight. Williams takes about 1 shot at the rim per game. By Hoopdata's count, he attempted 5 this evening.
Again, this game was up for grabs heading into the 4th quarter. The first 36 minutes saw two teams playing smart ball, with Sacramento showing impressive ball-movement that at times left Orlando's defense absolutely flummoxed. But in the 4th, several Kings had open looks rattle around and out. And Orlando mostly boxed-out well, only allowing the league's third-best offensive rebounding team to grab 22.6% of its available misses. Reserve power forward Jon Brockman accounted for 6 of the Kings 12 offensive rebounds. No other King had more than 2. Orlando has struggled on the defensive glass of late, so tonight's performance was a step in the right direction in that respect.
True, the Magic caught some breaks tonight. Rookie point guard Tyreke Evans, an excellent finisher, inexplicably missed two-thirds of his shots at the rim. Omri Casspi, a 45.5% three-point shooter, missed 5 of his 6 treys. Fluky? Perhaps. But I suppose you can credit the Magic for not panicking when they faced a road deficit. In their last away game, they blew a 10-point lead with 10 minutes to play. Tonight, trailing for most of the game, they continued to execute their game plan on both sides of the floor, and took advantage of their opponent when its play fell off. In other words, its more like what we expected of this Magic team, which opened the year 10-2 on the road, only to drop 6 of its next 7 entering tonight.