Game Notes: Hornets at Magic
Willie Green eats the Magic alive. It’s not a good sign in Orlando.
by Nada Taha
“I say it doesn’t last more than two minutes,” one reporter said.
“Actually, a minute and a half.”
Dwight packed up his essential orange pack of Tropical Twist Trident gum, his cologne and his Beats by Dre headphones quietly and quickly. He put on his True Religion jeans, and fastened his Ed Hardy belt.
He barely looked any of us in the eye.
We expected him to be pissed. We expected him to be short and barely talkative. We expected him to be a fuming Bruce Banner ready to rip off his clothes, turn green and transform into the Incredible Hulk after he only got three shot attempts in the second half of the 99-93 loss to the Hornets Friday night. The guy barely got the ball and the Hornets didn’t even have starter Emeka Okafor on the court.
But he didn’t. He spoke. And for over five minutes.
“That’s OK. It’s over with,” Howard said. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. We just have to make sure to do a better job the next game about getting the win. We can’t go back and get this game so there’s no need in Stan (Van Gundy) to be on suicide watch.
“It’s over with.”
It’s really not, though, Dwight. Think about it. You made eight of your 12 field goals. You could have eaten Aaron Gray, DJ Mbenga, Jason Smith for breakfast along side your eggs, cereal and orange juice. You had 16 points and nine rebounds in the first half (he finished with 20 and 17).
And then you stopped getting the ball.
“Free-throw shooting scared me off a little bit to be honest, but that’s not a good enough excuse, especially the way our perimeter guys played in the fourth quarter,” Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That ball should have been going into him. That’s my fault. I’m pissed at myself about that.”
What perimeter shooting is he talking about, is my question.
The struggling, low-confidence Magic made five of 21 three-pointers. And the perimeter guys Van Gundy keeps mentioning?
They were horrible.
Ryan Anderson: 5 points (2-8 FG), Jason Richardson: 6 points (3-9 FG) and Jameer Nelson: 7 points (3-11 FG).
The Magic were held to four points in the final 8:38 of the game and missed all four three-point shots in their embarrassing 13-point fourth quarter.
“Our perimeter play right now is mind-boggling to me. Our decision making is bad, we’re not shooting the ball well at all,” Van Gundy said. “That ball should have just been going inside. Nothing but going inside. The hell with the free-throw shooting. At least we would’ve gotten attempts.”
If only shooting was their sole problem. To top it off, the Magic could barely make any stops and allowed the Hornets to torch them with 61 points in the first half alone.
They made 16 turnovers, including a baffling, “What Was Hedo Thinking?” moment when he threw the ball out of bounds from the other side of the court on an in-bounds pass to JRich with 24.7 seconds remaining, pretty much sealing in the loss.
They were eaten alive by Willie Green. Willie Green!? The guy averages 7 points a game and walked away with a season-high 24. Chris Paul was relatively quiet with 15 and David West added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Hornets, who stopped their four-game losing streak before it got out of hand.
But it’s getting out of hand for the Magic. Scratch that. It is out of hand for the Magic.
“Right now, if you just look at the results, bottom line is, we can’t beat a good team. We’ve lost eight straight to teams that are over .500 right now and we haven’t been able to play at the level that you need to play to play teams like that,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t been able to raise our game to that level. We don’t play hard enough or well enough. Bottom line.”
The Magic are now 9-9 over the last 18 games. The last time they beat a winning team was Jan. 8 in Dallas. They’re going to be fishing with Charles Barkley really early if they don’t make adjustments and play with focus and intensity.
It’s the same old story in the Magic locker room after losses (and some wins). “Have to play smarter.” “Have to have more energy.” “Have to play with aggression.”
They’re all talking and saying the same thing, but no body seems to be listening. “No excuses,” they say. But that’s usually all we hear coming out of their mouths lately.
“We’ll be OK. We just can’t panic and we have to continue to be patient,” Dwight said. “I’m not going to lose any faith in what we’re trying to accomplish as a team, so we just have to continue to get better. “