For the past few weeks, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy’s nightly pregame speeches have included two simple requests: Good pace on offense and sustained energy on defense.
Orlando’s 101-85 win over the L.A. Clippers Tuesday night didn’t have all the elements Van Gundy is hoping his team will exhibit over next few months, but it was a step in the right direction.
Dwight Howard had 22 points and 20 rebounds and Jameer Nelson added 17 points, including going 4 for 5 from 3-point range, as Orlando used a second-half surge hand the Clippers their fourth straight loss.
It was the Magic’s ninth straight win over the Clippers and second of the season. The Clippers lost for the seventh consecutive time on the road.
”When I see 25 fast-break points and 23 second-chance points, I know we played hard and with good energy,” Van Gundy said. ”I thought that in the second half in particular, our defense was really good and I thought we did a good job on Blake Griffin.”
Baron Davis led the Clippers with a season-high 25 points, Ike Diogu added 18 and Griffin had 10 points and 12 rebounds. Griffin came in averaging 22.9 points per game, but couldn’t find his touch, connecting on only 4 of 12 shots.
Griffin agreed that the Magic’s defensive effort forced him into some difficult positions offensively. He said a lack of ball movement late in the second half of games continues to hamper the Clippers.
They shot 39 percent Tuesday night.
”Anytime a team doubles quick like that, you have to swing the ball and just let your teammates hit shots,” Griffin said. ”We didn’t hit shots as a team tonight. That hurt … Once they were up, they kind of never let up.”
The Magic shot poorly in the first half (37 percent overall and 18 from the 3-point line), but found their touch during a fourth-quarter spurt that included all five of their seven second-half 3s. They finished at 43.2 percent.
After playing from behind for most of the night, they took a 66-65 advantage into the fourth quarter with a 21-16 spurt.
The Clippers tied it at 70-all with 9:23 to play in fourth, before the Magic used a 12-0 run – including back-to-back 3’s by J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas – to build an 82-70 cushion at the 7:01 mark and force a Los Angeles timeout.
The Magic’s lead then grew to 94-80 with 2:55 left on a three-point play by Arenas to put the game out of reach.
Ryan Anderson added 13 points in his fourth straight start, Redick had 12 and Jason Richardson and Earl Clark each had 10.
Van Gundy promised to shake things up with some new offensive looks against the Clippers to try to energize his team’s recently sluggish offense.
But other than a few post isolations early for Arenas, it wasn’t present much in the first half as the Clippers rode Davis and to a 46-42 halftime lead.
Griffin was held to five points in the half, but the Magic were unable to capitalize with Anderson picking up his third foul midway through the second quarter.
Arenas’ nine points and five assists off the bench may have been the most promising performances for the Magic team.
Arenas has struggled with arthritis in his left knee lately. Entering Tuesday he was just 11 of 30 over his previous five games, including an 0 for 7 effort in Orlando’s loss at Boston Sunday.
He was only 3 of 9 from the field Tuesday, but after a shaky first half, made some nice passes in transition late in the game that had Van Gundy smiling.
”I’m trying to get it back,” Arenas said. ”Everyone is cheering me on right now… Like today, when I hit a 3 finally, (Hedo Turkoglu) was like ‘Just shoot the ball.’ So I’m just trying to get the rhythm and get confident in my shot again.”
Arenas said that cold weather often plays a role in whether his knee tightens up before games.
”He says when it gets warm, he’ll be better,” Howard said. ”So we pray the sun comes out a little more so his leg can heal up, I guess.”
NOTES: Clippers G Eric Gordon missed his 10th straight game Tuesday night with a sprained right wrist. He left the team on Monday and flew back to L.A. to have it examined, but doctors reported no change in his status… Griffin posted his 43rd double-double of the season and 10th straight … Howard recorded his fifth 20-20 game this season.