The Orlando Magic may not know exactly what twists may lie ahead of them during the remainder of this year’s fast-paced NBA schedule. What they can count on, however, is that the team as it exists presently will have its best nights when the ball moves around and it takes advantage of open shots on offense.
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Orlando accomplished both Monday night in a 104-95 win over Houston in the kind of game the Magic’s players said afterward should be saved as a season blueprint as they prepare to take on the first of several grueling stretches.
”I think it was across the board for our team tonight,” J.J. Redick said of the Magic earning their first win of the season following a Christmas night loss at Oklahoma City. ”We just played better offensively…and when that happens it’s a little easier to get into somewhat of a rhythm.”
Hedo Turkoglu scored 23 points to lead five Magic players in double figures, and Orlando got 13 points from Turkoglu and eight points from Redick in the fourth quarter to help the Magic stave off a handful of second-half charges by the Rockets. Dwight Howard finished with 21 points and Redick 20 for the game.
Van Gundy derided his team’s offensive energy in the loss to the Thunder and said it is far away from normal regular-season form.
”Those guys gave us a lift, and then I thought that Glen (Davis) us a big left there when we were fighting for the lead.” said Van Gundy, whose team takes next hosts New Jersey Thursday to kick off a stretch of four games in five days. ”We had some guys bounce back and have better games tonight and we had some other guys fall off.
”It’s tough right now. We haven’t had anybody in the first two games to have two good games. Hopefully, that consistency will come pretty quickly.”
Kyle Lowry led Houston with 20 points and 12 assists, Luis Scola added 19 and Courtney Lee 15 off the bench.
The Rockets trailed by as many as 12 points and got within four in the fourth quarter, but the Magic were able to hit some timely 3-pointers late to help secure the victory.
Center Samuel Dalembert, who’s signing with Houston became official on Monday, had 10 points, connecting on 5 of 6 field goals. His pickup was necessary after NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed a three-team deal that would have sent Los Angeles Lakers’ big man Pau Gasol to the Rockets.
New Houston coach Kevin McHale said he always planned to play Dalembert Monday, but was forced to get him in earlier than expected after Jordan Hill picked up two quick fouls. He played 19 minutes on the night and also had five rebounds.
”I went out there and got some minutes and kept it going,” Dalembert said. ”That is what a team is all about…I like this group…This year we really have to emphasize on defense and then we can get extra possessions…If we can do that, we will be OK.”
The retirement of Yao Ming has shifted much of the offensive onus for McHale’s team to his young guards. Though they came up short Monday, there is definitely a lot for McHale to work with.
Lowry came just three rebounds shy of notching a triple-double and former Magic draft pick Courtney Lee (15 points) and Terrence Williams (13 points, six rebounds) also had their moments.
”Mentally, we’re asking them to do a lot of different things with new coverages and a lot of different things with new calls and stuff like that,” McHale said. ”Some of that was blown. Overall, I think this team will play hard. I think we’re feisty. I think when (Sam) gets in shape he’ll help us out a great deal.”
Houston hung tough early, but were done in shooting 43 percent (36 for 82) from the field for the game and 22 percent (6 for 27) from beyond the arc.
Howard shot just 4 for 12 from the field in that game, but was active from the opening tap Monday and helped stimulate the flow for his teammates as Orlando took a 53-50 advantage into halftime.
He connected on 8 of his first 9 attempts Monday and led all scorers with 16 first-half points.
Redick added 10 points and Davis nine before being forced to the bench with his third foul.
Scola was just as productive for the Rockets, though, and kept them close in the opening 24 minutes with 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting.
Houston also managed to outrebound the Magic, 20-19, and had just three turnovers.
The Rockets kept both edges for the game, with two fewer turnovers and a 41-35 edge on the boards.
Magic guard Jason Richardson said they expect to have even better nights than Monday, but like the fight they showed down the stretch in just their second outing.
”They made a run and pushed, but we held out ground and we stayed put and stayed to our game plan and finished the game,” he said.
Notes: Redick picked up a technical fouled late in the third quarter, the Magic’s first of the season. He also had a tech during the preseason … Houston G Kevin Martin, who struggled during the preseason shooting just 2 for 12 from the field, started out 0 for 9 Monday … McHale, who spent the past two seasons doing work for NBATV and TNT said that he definitely likes being back on the sidelines more than watching from the broadcast chair. McHale last coached Minnesota for 63 games in 2008-09. ”The fun thing about announcing is you don’t care who wins (and) the bad thing about announcing is you don’t care who wins,” he said. ”You like having a dog in the fight. You like the feeling I have right now – the little anticipation. You get the butterflies. You don’t get that when you’re doing TV.”