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Orlando Magic 107, Memphis Grizzlies 92

The Orlando Magic took command against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, lost control of the game during a poorly played third quarter, but fought their way back to win convincingly, 107-92. Vince Carter scored a game-high 26 points, including 2 on a one-handed, 360-degree fastbreak dunk that he only did because he felt the crowd wanted him to, while also adding 7 boards and a game-best 6 assists. Rashard Lewis scored 18 points and made 5 three-pointers, and Jameer Nelson scored 9 of his 18 points in the decisive fourth period for Orlando. The Magic held a 30-point advantage from beyond the arc, but Memphis kept the game close with frequent trips to the foul line. All-Star big man Zach Randolph scored 24, grabbed 18 rebounds, and took 15 free-throws as Orlando struggled to find an answer for his bulk inside. But the Grizzlies struggled to score from the perimeter all night long, and once the Magic managed to play D without fouling, Memphis had no reliable way to put points on the board. The win means Orlando's defeated every other team in the league at least once this season.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Grizzlies 91 101.2 42.0% 38.7 27.9 16.5
Magic 91 117.9 54.3% 22.0 26.1 15.4
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Much of the game stories tonight will focus on the flare-up between the two teams in the third period, when officials had to dole out 5 technical fouls. Unsurprisingly, Orlando's fiery Matt Barnes was at the center. Whistled for an offensive foul on a play that he fell to the ground, Barnes jumped up and ran toward one of the referees, pleading for an explanation. On his way over, he shoved Memphis center Hasheem Thabeet out of the way. Thabeet responded with a shove to Barnes' chest, which drew Barnes' attention. Carter and Memphis' O.J. Mayo had words with one another as well, and each player received one technical. Barnes got two and was ejected to a rousing Amway Arena ovation, angrily tossing his jersey into the crowd as he headed to the tunnel. At the time of his ejection, Orlando had managed just 4 points in the period, and Memphis was on a 12-4 run spanning the end of the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, the Grizzlies took a 5-point lead, and the Magic appeared headed for a rather embarrassing defeat. They simply couldn't score against a Grizzlies team that had offered little resistance in the first half.

But at the 2:07 mark of the period, Dwight Howard entered the game, and Memphis held a 69-68 edge. He'd been in the locker room for most of the the quarter receiving treatment on his right eye, which had been poked hard twice during the course of play. Howard seemed on a mission. He'd had several unhappy discussions with the referees over perceived non-calls that went against him, as well as a few traveling violations. He took out his frustration on the Grizzlies, which rocketed Orlando back into control of the game. On the first defensive possession he played after checking in, he swatted Rudy Gay's driving layup at the rim, which sent Gay sprawling to the floor. With Gay unable to get back on defense, Mickael Pietrus spotted up with his toe on the arc and nailed a long two-pointer off a nice feed from Carter. The next possession, he grabbed Randolph's baby hook out of midair, which led to a fast-break three by Carter. Next, he challenged a floater attempt by Mayo, which Carter rebounded and fed to point guard Jason Williams, who found Brandon Bass under the basket, where he drew a foul and converted both freebies. All told, Orlando went on a 7-0 run once Howard returned, with Howard having a hand in making 3 defensive stops which led to 3 fast-break scores.

Howard, on balance, had a game to forget. He shot 2-of-6 from the floor and 4-og-7 from the foul line for 8 points, and grabbed just 11 boards in 34 minutes. He recorded 5 official blocked shots, and got hosed on a 6th, as the devouring of Randolph's hook officially went down as just a rebound for Howard. Thabeet and Darrell Arthur did commendable work pushing Howard off of his spots and not letting him establish position down low even in transition. Second-year center Hamed Haddadi only played 3 minutes, but he too gave Howard some problems.

Fortunately for Orlando, the Grizzlies could not contain the Magic's perimeter scorers. Carter, Lewis, Nelson, and J.J. Redick had their way with Memphis' flimsy defense. Nobody seemed capable of stopping dribble penetration, which helped Carter set himself up at the rim or set his teammates up from beyond the arc. The same holds for Jameer Nelson. Redick and Lewis got most of their points spotting up in transition or in the halfcourt, and Orlando's offense hummed, save for the ugly stretch to start the third period. Carter, when engaged to this degree, remains as lethal an offensive force as he was 3 or 4 years ago. 9-of-18 shooting for him, but 3 of those misses came on difficult tip-in attempts on the same play. He was sensational.

Coach Stan Van Gundy thinks that the third-period altercation perked his team up:

"We played with a lot of fight," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We didn't have a whole lot of fight until everything went down. Then we had some fight."

And given how Carter and Howard played after the fact, it's tough to disagree with him. The Magic seemed to take more pride in their defense, while their offense made crisper passes and quicker decisions. Memphis was quite often a step or two slow to stop the Magic from that point on. Its weak close-outs on three-point shooters certainly did not help their case.

Ultimately, Orlando sort of sleepwalked through a game against an inferior opponent--though Memphis isn't a pushover, as it's over .500 in the Western Conference--until that opponent got under its skin enough to prompt an aggressive response. Perhaps that's worrisome, in that the Magic may not have woken up were it not for the confrontation. Then again, they put a swift end to what had been a competitive game after that. When not challenged, they're dangerous. But when provoked? Based on today's result, you'd say they're even more so.