[Oakland, CA] Even with all of the trade-induced drama surrounding the team, the Orlando Magic are one of the best teams in the NBA. Shhh, don’t tell anybody.
Even though the Magic sit atop the Southeast Division with an 8-3 record, the basketball pundits will never say that Orlando is in the top four or five teams. Why? Well, there are several reasons.
First, Orlando has yet to beat a truly great team other than the Portland Trail Blazers. After victories over Miami, Chicago and/or Oklahoma City, then you will start to hear the TV doggies bark.
Second, Dwight Howard‘s impending trade keeps everybody from saying anything positive about the team because they are an unknown quantity down the stretch. Whatever can be said now won’t mean much after the big fella is traded. Or he could stay, who knows (Jermaine Dupri certainly doesn’t).
No matter, the Orlando Magic broke hearts and set records last night at Golden State. The Warriors went down 117-109 in a high scoring affair that saw the Magic’s superstar center make history (the good kind). And it was at the foul line, no less.
Howard made made 39 trips to the free-throw line, setting an NBA record for charity attempts in a single game. D-12 only managed to turn 21 of those into points, however.
Jason Richardson sprained his left knee
“I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line,” said Howard. “I didn’t care if I missed 30. I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence.”
The free-throws helped Howard to a monster game – and the first 40-20 game of his career – as he poured in 45 points, grabbed 23 rebounds, had four steals, made three assists and notched two blocks.
Yes, he missed 18 free throws which, if he was a 90%+ shooter, would have netted him another 15 or so points which would have put him at 60 or more points on the night. That’s the stuff of legend. But he missed them, so it is an almost-legend.
“It is amazing,” joked Magic guard J.J. Redick. “It’s amazing that he made 21.”
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson employed the hack-a-Howard due to key injuries on his team as well as Howard’s dismal free-throw shooting percentage (42.6% on the season, ouch).
“He’s a great player. And he’s a bad free throw shooter,” offered Jackson post-game. “Giving ourselves the best chance possible, we tried to mess up their rhythm, take their 3-point shooters out of it, which we did. They made plays.”
As for the Golden State, Monta Ellis made his share of plays, scoring 30 and tossing 11 assists while David Lee gave them a 26-point, 12 rebound effort. It was Lee’s sixth consecutive double-double. Keep an eye on that kid.
Injury report: Orlando’s Jason Richardson exited the game at the 8:46 mark in the third after a court collision that resulted in a sprained left knee. He did not return to action.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Images: Orlando Magic