Three Thoughts after Magic's 99-94 loss to the Grizzlies
Lacking that Killer Instinct
A day after Dallas torched New York by 50 points, Orlando took as much as a 16-point lead in the first half only to see it evaporate by the end of the quarter. It is becoming a familiar trend for the Magic who, this time, against a solid (read: hot) opponent in the Grizzlies could not recover and rebuild their lead.
Recall that against Indiana last week, Orlando had a 29-point lead that was cut to eight in the fourth quarter before Orlando recovered to get a relatively comfortable win. The Magic also held a double digit lead in Saturday's win in Charlotte before giving up a 33-point fourth quarter and losing a 10-point lead to start the final quarter.
When the Magic are not falling behind early, they are struggling to hold on to leads at times. This tenuous position is one of the many reasons fans were shaky about their team's status.
Now, Memphis is a good team -- sounds like I am rationalizing, I know -- and probably playing as one of the best teams in the league for the last month. Their front line gives everyone problems and forced Stan Van Gundy to play the twin tower lineup of Marcin Gortat and Dwight Howard to try to corral Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, who had 23 points and 19 rebounds including a tip that tied the game late.
But right now, it just feels like the Magic lack the killer instinct to put teams away. They did not do it against the Pacers last week, nor against the Bobcats on Saturday. And when crunch time came around last night in Memphis, Orlando was taken out of its game -- whether it was Vince Carter's long 3-point shot for the lead or Jameer Nelson getting tied up for a jump ball with the game tied on the previous possession.
Granted, the Magic did a good job closing out the Kings and keeping them way out of the game Friday. But they are hardly the quality opponent that the Bobcats or Grizzlies presented.
In Wednesday's game against Indiana, Sun Sports reported during the game broadcast that during a second-quarter timeout Stan Van Gundy took one of his note cards and wrote 48 over it, urging his team to play all 48 minutes. This has been Orlando's problem lately and it is a message the team needs to take to heart.
A double digit lead should be relatively comfortable for this team with the offensive and defensive potential they have.
Dwight Howard Angry!
The big bright spot from Monday's game is that Dwight Howard continues his offensive renaissance. Howard scored 27 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had six blocked shots against the Grizzlies. This was on 9-of-14 shooting and nine for 11 from the line.
We all know Howard is the key to Orlando's defense, which has been playing very well of late. He continues to provide the defensive presence the Magic need to be successful.
Rumor has it, Howard took the beating he took from Jeff Pendergraph, Juwan Howard and the Portland front line personally way back on the road trip. Since then, Howard has completely turned his offensive game around.
In the five games before the game against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 15 (and including it), Howard averaged 16.8 points per game while shooting 54 percent from the floor (and averaging 10.0 shots per game) and 56.6 percent from the foul line.
Since that game he is averaging 22.4 points per game, shooting 59.3 percent from the floor, receiving 11.8 shots per game and shooting a scorching (for him) 73.7 percent on free throws.
That is a very good stretch offensively for Dwight. The kind of offense I think fans, pundits, coaches, Howard himself and everyone else was expecting from him this season.
Turnovers Becoming a Problem
Turnovers have stood out in a lot of Magic games recently and this one in particular. Stan Van Gundy admitted Orlando had horrible execution throughout the second half of Monday's game. The turnovers did not help, especially the tie up Rudy Gay earned against Jameer Nelson with the game tied and less than a minute remaining. Gay easily won the jump ball.
Orlando committed 19 turnovers in last night's game and is averaging 17.0 turnovers per game in the last five games. Jameer Nelson had the worst day yesterday with six miscues.
Surprisingly, it seems, the Magic are not a horrible team at protecting the ball. They average 14.7 turnovers per game, putting them right smack in the middle of the NBA at fifteenth best in the league. It is a number everyone would like to see come down.
Lately it has not hampered Orlando from winning games or remaining competitive, but it is a number to keep an eye on. In the last five games, Orlando is just 3-2.