Magic annihilate Bucks 106-80
Early and often The Magic clearly made an effort to feed Dwight Howard early in the game. Howard totaled 18 points, five rebounds and eight field goal attempts in the first quarter. He had as many shot attempts in the first quarter as he did in the entire game against Cleveland on Tuesday night. Howard registered 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists at halftime, threatening for his first career triple-double without the help of blocks. He was without a doubt the focal point of the offense — just like it should be. Howard ended up with 28 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Angry defense The Magic played defense as if they were mad. There were few — very few — easy jump shots for Milwaukee tonight, and the Bucks were punished when challenging Howard in the paint. The Bucks shot 37.7 percent. The Magic didn’t force a lot of mistakes, with six steals and two blocks, but their tenacious defense disrupted Milwaukee’s offense and gave away minimal easy buckets. Incredible first half The first half was the best half I’ve seen the Magic play since the opening half of their Christmas win over the Hornets. The Magic dominated every facet of the game Wednesday night and enjoyed a 65-35 halftime lead. The offense was almost flawless, putting up 65 points on 17 assists and 56 percent shooting. Dwight Howard led the way with his all-around performance, while JJ Redick and Hedo Turkoglu also played particularly well. But even better was the Magic’s defense. They held the Bucks to 13 field goals on 39 attempts and the Bucks could only muster 14 points in the paint. Rashard Lewis shut down Charlie Villanueva, and Alston pestered Ramon Sessions into an uninspired performance. The arena was lifeless The Magic didn’t come out with much energy, but it’s hard to blame them with the arena being about a third full. The Bucks may be pushing for the last playoff spot, but they’re still a team that’s eight games below .500 and is not all that fun to watch. The attendance was pitiful. What else is there in Milwaukee besides beer, cheese and fat people? You have to get more people than that when a top-five team and a top-five player come to town. Key Figures: 3 — Rebounds for our man Jeremy Richardson, a career-high. He played a little more than two minutes and didn’t attempt a field goal. When Richardson plays, you know it was probably a good night for the Magic. 21 — Free-throw attempts for Dwight Howard, the most he’s taken in a game this season. Howard made 12 of them. 30 — Points the Magic outscored the Bucks by when Hedo Turkoglu was on the floor. Turkoglu finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Magic’s best: It was Dwight Howard, without a doubt. He took it easy in the second half, but the first half (20 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) was the best all-around half of his career. Magic’s worst: Rashard Lewis played a little better, but it still wasn’t the same Lewis we saw earlier in the year. He was 4-for-11 from the field and 2-for-6 from deep for 13 points. He played solid defense, though, and he finally made some 3s after going 0-for-14 in the previous two games. Defending Dwight: The Bucks didn’t do much of defending Dwight, and their ineffective double-teams were the reason for Howard’s almost career-high showing in assists. They didn’t deny the ball at all — the Magic were easily able to get their passes into Howard close to the hoop. Teams should study the Bucks’ defense on how to NOT defend Dwight. Telling statistic: The Bucks connected on 18 of their 57 jump shots, good for 31.5 percent. There were very few Bucks jumpers without a hand in the face.
So much for a trap game. The Magic played like they were angry about Tuesday night’s loss to the Cavs, and the poor Bucks got in the way. Orlando dominated from start to finish and cruised to an easy win. Many of the problems that plagued them on Tuesday night against Cleveland — spotty perimeter defense, not getting Dwight Howard involved — were addressed on Wednesday night.