I already feel sorry for the Orlando Magic (no I don't). It's practically written in stone that Dwight Howard will be playing elsewhere next season, and it's not a certainty that Orlando will benefit in his departure. Fans can't really blame the guy, since the Magic haven't done a good job building around him. Today, January 2nd, looking at this team feels like you're watching the end of something-- like a friend's troubled marriage or your limping cat's last few days. Or rain at twilight.
Game Tips at 7:30 P.M. EST
Orlando Magic: 4 - 1 (1 - 1 road)
Detroit Pistons: 1 - 3 (1 - 1 home)
On the bright side, Dwight Howard is playing out of his mind, averaging 17 points and 17 rebounds with 3 blocks per game. The Magic have won four of five not just on Howard's back, but the excellent play of Ryan Anderson and JJ Redick. Anderson is arguably the league's best stretch four, and he's averaging 20 points and 6 rebounds plus a blinding 47% from the perimeter. This guy attempts 9 threes per game and hits nearly half of them. It's hard to say that's a fluke, since Anderson was just shy of 40% on the season last year.
JJ Redick is also continuing to improve, himself shooting 50% from three and averaging 15 points per game. Then there's Hedo Turkoglu who I really don't want to talk about so I'm not going to say anything about him. Suck it, Hedo.
At the point, however, Orlando's rotation is bunk in 2011-12. Jameer Nelson is not having a good year and Chris Duhon can just go ahead and sit in the imaginary corner that I've forced Hedo into. Face the wall, Duhon.
Keys to the Game
Defend the perimeter - The Magic are leading the league in 3-pointers per game with 10 a contest. Guard Anderson and Redick every single time, and watch for outlet passes from Dwight and (that funny looking guy in the corner).
Feed Moose, but watch for blocks - Feed the moose like you did against Indiana. This is a better game to use Monroe as a facilitator instead of our primary point of post scoring, because Dwight Howard could turn this game into a block party.
Force foul trouble on Howard - When Howard gets into foul trouble (which is not difficult to pull off, he's not a very careful player), he gets upset, he gets technicals and he plays frustrated. Guard penetration and wise footwork by Monroe/Jerebko could do the trick.
Question of the Game
Can Detroit build on its effort against Indiana? That was a beautiful game, and there are few better confidence builders than a win against Orlando.