On the eve of Valentine’s Day there was no love lost between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic. It almost seems like a decade has past since these two teams met in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Magic are a completely different team while the Lakers by and large remain the same. While L.A. vs. Orlando doesn’t scream rivalry, this game clearly meant a great deal to the Magic.Orlando saught another quality win amidst the team’s struggles heading into the All-Star break. Seek and you shall find, as Orlando showcased a masterful team defensive effort to end the Lakers 4 game winning streak by a score of 89-75. Dwight Howard powered the Magic with 31 points and 13 rebounds while Kobe Bryant was held to just 17 points (and no free throws) thanks to the defense of Jason Richardson and others throughout. The 75 points was a season low for the defending world champs.
Orlando began the game with the energy that fit a battle of this magnitude. The Magic implemented an aggressive drive and dish attack while consistently looking inside before launching their trademark 3’s. A welcome sight for fans of the Blue and Silver, and Coach Van Gundy I’m sure. Dwight Howard had 9 points and 5 rebounds in the first quarter while Andrew Bynum countered with his own 9 points and 6 rebounds as the Magic took a 24-21 going into the 2nd quarter.
The start of the second quarter was ragged. The refs let them play a little bit and both sides complained with shoulders shrugged looking for calls. Orlando received strong play from Earl Clark who tallied 6 points and 4 rebounds in the quarter. The biggest complaint on Clark’s game to date has been his basketball IQ. He seemed like a well versed student of the game driving, hustling for boards, and taking shots in the rhythm of the offense. Howard was held scoreless with foul trouble in the quarter while the Lakers stayed close on 2nd chance points and points in the paint (28) to trail 45-41 at halftime.
When the 2nd half resumed the Magic performed as if the playoffs had started. I don’t know what Van Gundy said to the team at halftime but the Magic were more focused in the 3rd quarter and overall in the 2nd half. The help defense and rotations were phenomenal. Every Magic player seemed to find a Laker to box out holding L.A. to 0 offensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter. Hedo Turkgolu even got into the action defensively. On one possession Kobe danced with the ball like only he can but Turk had his dancing shoes ready, forcing Bryant into an errant jumper from behind the backboard. The effort did not go unnoticed as the crowd and maybe even more importantly his teammates congratulated him on the effort. Orlando led 67-60 at the end of three.
The Lakers continued to wilt under the defensive pressure of the Magic and the MVP performance of Howard. Superman delivered 22 points on 9-9 shooting from the floor and 4-5 from the free throw line in the 2nd half. Howard maneuvered around the paint like it was his artistic canvas prompting Pau Gasol to say “He kept going down our throats on one end and we didn’t attack him on the other end or make him play us at all.” A tale often told by Howard opponents. When the final buzzer sounded the Magic walked off the court victorious with an heir that seemed to say finally! After the game Van Gundy said “We played throughout the game, there was not really a bad stretch for us today. And that’s what it’s going to take against quality teams….I think that shows us at least who we can be.” Dwight Howard reiterates some of Van Gundy’s comments in the video below but with an effort like this I think it is safe to say that the Magic are coming into form.
Here are some clips from the game:
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com