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Magic roller coaster continues as Dwight drops 40 in win over Oklahoma City

February 25, 2011

Apparently Dwight Howard’s harsh words sunk in to the Magic.  Then again, maybe not.  Perhaps tonight’s 111-88 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was just another example of the up and down cycle that has been the 2010-2011 season.  Regardless, it was a strong showing by the Magic against a very good, but shorthanded, Thunder team.

Dwight had a monstrous game against the Kendrick Perkins-less Thunder putting in a season high 40 points, grabbing 15 rebounds and blocking 6 shots.  He controlled the game offensively and defensively and showed again that he absolutely deserves to be in the short discussion for MVP.  The only negative tonight for Dwight was that he picked up his 15th technical foul, only 1 away from an automatic one game suspension.

If it wasn’t Dwight throwing down Turkaloops, then it was Jason Richardson raining in three pointers or J.J. Redick hitting floaters in the lane.  Everything seemed to be working for the Magic on the offensive end (except for Gilbert Arenas).  J-Rich finished with 17, Redick with 16 and Gilbert with 6 on 2-11 shooting.

The team defense tonight was outstanding and drew strong praise from Stan Van Gundy calling the team’s focus “very very good”.  The priority for the team tonight was to shut down the lane and keep Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook out of the paint.  They did it with much success as Durant and Westbrook combined to shoot 14-39 from the field.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder in scoring, like always, but only managed 23 points, 7 below his average.

When Stan said he was open to changes in the lineup after the Sacramento game, he wasn’t lying.  While there was nothing drastic done, Earl Clark replaced Ryan Anderson as the backup to Brandon Bass and Ryan moved to backup Center.  However, Stan said after the game that it was purely a situational move and that he will continue to alter the rotations depending on the matchup.  He even went as far as to say Ryan Anderson was playing probably the second best basketball on the team since the trades.  The problem is Ryan has no chance to succeed in guarding Durant, whereas Earl Clark can.

Earl had a strong game when on the court despite a rather pedestrian box score.  He played great on ball defense on Kevin Durant and brought energy and aggression on both ends of the floor.  Stan again had high praise for Earl and emphasized that his personal success in this league will be based on his ability to embrace being a defensive stopper.  He has all the skills to do it and if he is able to get near it, the Magic will be a much better team.

For the Thunder, they clearly were missing their big men and it showed.  Tough for them to get too discouraged as they will look much better when Cole Aldrich returns to the back of the bench.  On top of being short handed, Teddy Bear Ibaka struggled mightily and fouled out after only playing 18 minutes.

The quote of the night comes from Thunder Head Coach Scott Brooks, who sums up tonight’s game perfectly:

“We got beat by a very good team. Their defense was smothering. They played great defense throughout the night and made us take tough shots and it seems like every shot was contested. They played well tonight. Give them credit. They had a tough loss last game out, and they they came out and played good basketball.”

After such an embarrassing loss to the Kings last time out, this win was badly needed and shows that the Magic are still a forced to be reckoned with.  For today at least.

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