Dwight Howard led a sluggish Orlando Magic suqd to a 96-89 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night, stuffing the stat sheet with 25 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, a steal, and four blocked shots in 39 minutes. Hedo Turkoglu scored eight of his 15 points in the fourth period to help put the pesky Bobcats away, giving Orlando its second win in as many nights and fifth straight overall.
Gerald Henderson played an outstanding game for Charlotte, saddling Turkoglu with two early fouls by attacking him off the dribble. The third-year pro scored 22 points in 39 minutes, shooting 7-of-10 from the floor and 8-of-10 from the foul line. Rookie forward Bismack Biyombo turned in the strongest performance of his young career, with an 11-point, 10-rebound, four-block showing off the Bobcats' bench.
Charlotte, which entered the game with a 3-11 record and ranked among the league's worst teams on both ends of the floor, staked itself to a seven-point lead after the first quarter as Howard and Turkoglu each picked up two fouls in less than five minutes. Nobody picked up the offensive slack for them: Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick, who starred in Monday's win against the New York Knicks, combined to shoot 3-of-11 in the period, and the Magic went 7-of-22 as a team. Execution and shot-selection proved problematic for Orlando, as Quentin Richardson and Glen Davis each took several ill-advised shots in a stagnant offense.
When Howard returned to the game in the second period, Orlando returned to form, scoring 30 points on 68.4 percent shooting. The Bobcats, predictably, had no answer for Orlando's All-Star center, who tallied 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the quarter. Von Wafer helped ease the pain of the Magic's losing Turkoglu, as he picked up his third foul less than two minutes into the second. Wafer scored five points with two exceptionally quick drives to the rim and helped Orlando draw to within three points at the half.
|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.
The Magic slowly worked their way back into Tuesday's game as the second half unfolded, but the Bobcats made it a battle. Both teams showed signs of fatigue, in the midst of their second game in as many nights, with Charlotte playing its fifth game in six nights. Both teams shot 40 percent from the floor and committed six turnovers in the third period. Howard managed to keep his hands to himself, for the most part, committing just one foul; as a result, he played the entire 12 minutes, and continued to make the Bobcats look silly by posting nine points and five boards.
The fourth quarter became, as it so often has during the last five seasons, Turkoglu Time. Fresh after having played just 18 minutes through three periods, Orlando's primary playmaker took over and helped Orlando leapfrog the visitors. Respecting Turkoglu's ability to distribute, the Bobcats played just far enough off the Turkish forward in order to turn him into a scorer. That decision proved costly: Turkoglu did whatever he pleased offensively in the fourth, with two beautiful foul-drawing drives, a deep three off a catch, and a long two-pointer with his patented step-back move going to his left.
But let's not overlook Wafer's contributions in crunch time. With Redick struggling the entire game and Jason Richardson unavailable due to a bone bruise in his left knee, the Magic had to lean on Wafer to produce offensively. And if there's one thing Wafer's proven during his six-year pro career, it's that he can score. Wafer scored another easy layup in the period, hit a long two-pointer off the dribble, and drilled a key three-pointer off a Jameer Nelson draw-and-kick to put Orlando up five with 5:38 to play. Moments later, Anderson would hit just his second three of the game to keep the lead at five. Nelson closed the game out with a quick layup and six free throws as Charlotte tried to foul its way back into contention, but by then the game had escaped it.
Tuesday's wasn't a game for the time capsule, no matter how one looks at it. The difference? One tired, sloppy team had Dwight Howard. The other did not. Obvious, sure, but also very, very true.
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