Dwight Howard propelled the Magic to a thorough beatdown of the Toronto Raptors, 112-72, with 31 points and 19 rebounds, on Friday night. Orlando's franchise center scored 17 of those points in the decisive third quarter, in which the Magic outscored the visitors by a 26-16 margin. Ryan Anderson tied a career high with 21 points off Orlando's bench, while J.J. Redick (10 points) and Brandon Bass (10 points) rounded out the Magic's double-figure scorers. The Magic limited Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan to 27 points, just over half the 53 they yielded them in the teams' first meeting, a 110-106 Raptors victory.
Bargnani shot 3-of-14 from the floor tonight, which is indicative of Toronto's poor half-court offense against the Magic's outstanding defense. Bargnani and his fellow starters combined to shoot 10-of-43 from the floor; the Raptors' only reliable offense all night came in offensive rebound or transition situations, with the reserve trio of Jerryd Bayless (10 points), Sundiata Gaines (10 points) and Amir Johnson (11 points) coming up big there.
Orlando shut down Toronto's set offense with expert pick-and-roll play, and here Bass deserves commendation. The veteran power forward hedged well on the Raptors' high screen-and-rolls, forcing the ballhandlers to backpedal, thus stalling the offense. Behind him, Orlando's wings shaded Bass' man well enough to discourage an entry passes on the roll until Bass could get back to him, and then rotated back to their own men in the corner or on the wings. The 112 points the Magic put up may get more attention, but their clinic on the defensive end was also instrumental in the win.
|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.
Orlando's gameplan tonight was, pretty transparently, to attack the Raptors in transition, when their defense is still scrambling to pick up their assignments. Jameer Nelson really put on a show here, pushing the tempo aggressively and getting to the rim for scores, or to draw defenders, with ease. Though he missed 8 of his 12 shot attempts, Nelson orchestrated the halfcourt and transition offenses to near perfection, finishing with 8 assists. At every opportunity, he and Hedo Turkoglu looked to deliver the ball to Howard under the goal before the Raptors could get set. Though Howard got off to a rough start, shooting 6-of-14 before halftime, he and his teammates stuck with the game plan, and it eventually paid off.
Orlando didn't do anything truly special here; it took control simply by exploiting its biggest mismatch against Toronto, which happens to be Howard's interior play against the Raptors' undersized or otherwise ill-suited defenders. Howard did darn near whatever he pleased whenever he had Bargnani, Johnson, or Joey Dorsey on his back, particularly in the second half, when Orlando pulled away for good.
The Magic's offense wasn't gangbusters all game, though, as it managed 47 first-half points against a usually porous Raptors defense. A lot of that is due to Howard simply missing easy shots, sure, but its perimeter players never really found their shooting strokes, either. Anderson scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, with the game already well in hand. Essentially, the Magic put this game away by giving the ball to Howard and getting the heck out of the way on one end, while taking away all of Toronto's viable offensive options at the other. Pretty elementary stuff, but also quite effective.
We also saw momentary glimpses of what Gilbert Arenas can do playing off the ball, as he drilled a spot-up three-pointer from the left corner off a Nelson drive-and-dish feed in the first half. Due to their lack of size, coach Stan Van Gundy doesn't often pair Nelson and Arenas in the backcourt, but he can get away with it for a few minutes a night against teams like Toronto, who don't have a perimeter player who can punish Orlando in the low post. I like the idea of Arenas playing off the ball, with Nelson, Redick, or Hedo Turkoglu doing the ballhandling, because it enables him to shoot from a standstill. On the night, Arenas finished with 7 points and 7 assists off the bench, shooting 2-of-5 from the floor. He tallied only one turnover, but lost the ball on at least two other occasions when his teammates bailed him out with a recovery. He's still not comfortable handling against pressure, I don't think, which is a concern. But the way he played tonight, particularly off the ball, bodes good things for his Orlando future.
The big margin let Van Gundy empty his bench, so all 12 Magic players who suited up took the court. Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Jason Williams, and Quentin Richardson all had the opportunity to play tonight. Were it not for the hard work the eight men ahead of them put in during the first 40 minutes or so of the game, it wouldn't have been possible. Kudos to Van Gundy for drawing up a great gameplan, and to the players for executing it with precision. Impressive win, even considering the competition.