Game Notes: Clippers at Magic
Blake Griffin & Co. come out flat in Orlando.
by Nada Taha
It was 43 degrees in Orlando Tuesday night.
Cold enough for a light jacket, but warm enough for Gilbert Arenas to run without a limp.
After a half where the Magic made just 15 of 39 shots, missed 11 of their 12 3-pointers at one point midway through the second quarter and struggled to get or keep a lead against the 19-32 Los Angeles Clippers, Arenas threw his hands in the air and shook his head in relief as he sunk a three that sparked a run for Magic.
“I’m trying to get it back and everyone’s cheering me on. Like when I hit that three, I was like, `Ahhhhhhh,’ and Turk (Hedo Turkoglu) was like, ‘Just shoot the ball and don’t worry about it,’” Arenas said. “I’m just trying to get my rhythm and get comfortable with my shot again.”
We got a glimpse of what Arenas once was and what he could one day be again (if the weather is warm and on a much (much) smaller scale than his ’06-07 season, of course). He stepped into fourth-quarter mode, scoring 6 of his 9 points, dishing out all 5 of his assists and was the key to the Magic’s 101-85 win.
“Gilbert is going to continue to get better, he just has to learn his spots on the floor, where he’s going to get good shots and he’s just got to play,” Magic center Dwight Howard said. “He’s going to be fine. He says when it gets warm he’ll get better, so we just pray that the sun comes out a little bit more so his leg can heat up, I guess.”
It was what everyone has been waiting to see.
It won’t be enough, however, to quiet rumblings that Magic GM Otis Smith traded a healthy Rashard Lewis for a damaged Arenas. But it was enough to get a surprisingly expressive high-five from coach Stan Van Gundy and it was just what the Magic needed to blow the low-scoring game open.
While Arenas stole the storyline, a search party was sent out looking for rookie dunking phenom Blake Griffin.
The recently announced all-star looked anything but as the Magic threw double teams his way and made him a non-factor, hitting just four of his 12 shots and finishing with 10 points—tying his lowest point total all season.
“We were showing (Griffin) a little double team early to get him out of his comfort zone because right now he’s a highlight reel,” Arenas said. “That’s how they’re successful and that’s how they get their energy.”
Energy was another face on a milk carton in Tuesday’s game.
Both teams were lackadaisical for the most part, especially the Clippers, who went scoreless for 5:07 in the third quarter, allowing the Magic to score 13 straight points.
Dwight Howard finished his fifth 20-20 game of the season with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick added 17, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“It was just one of those games where you stay close, stay close, kinda sloppy, kinda rugged and they were really the first team to get out and get that double-digit lead,” Baron Davis, who was the leading scorer for the Clippers, finishing with 25 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, said. “In a game like that, it can go either way.”
Heading into the All-Star break, it was a game the Magic needed to jumpstart the second-half of the season. They’ve been struggling since they blew up the team and added Jason Richardson and Arenas and brought back Turkoglu (who’s averaged 5.3 points in the last three games).
“We have to continue to play and be more consistent. We’re going to make shots and we’re going to be a better team than we are now,” Howard said. “We just want everybody to continue to support us. We need our fans every night to be loud. We’re going to get this thing right. We just need everybody to be patient.”
And the sun to come out.