Orlando Tripped by Trailblazers
Here it is, ten minutes prior to tip and too much silence beds an arena holding too many empty seats. Could this silence, this Howard-free atmosphere be a preview of the future? If so, where does that leave the fans? Forgive my indulgence but I must get rid of the formalities before tip and voice a much biased opinion.
Shame on you, Dwight Howard. Do you think basketball is a just game and you are merely one of many players taking part in a game? I’m here to talk straight, this is NO game and it’s time you come to that understanding. When you misbehave, the consequences go beyond the moment and your tantrums. One more thing, quit the whining and start playing with a winning attitude and a character representative of a hero… after all, in the eyes of so many children, you are a hero. Okay, enough of this, let’s get to the game at hand.
Question: Is Orlando a one-trick pony?
Portland controlled the tip, drawing first blood with an uncontested shot by Andre Miller. Orlando responded with a miss and a look of confusion. Next possession found Miller back at the free-throw line. Portland up by four after 90 seconds. Magic reciprocated with a turnover.
Nelson broke goose eggs with a 15-foot baseline shot. Looks like the Magic were looking for a go-to player and, after the first 181 seconds, found themselves down 6 to 2 and without a go-to player. First timeout was called at the 6:39 spot, finding the Magic down 10 to 7. Thus far Portland was finding an open lane while Orlando appeared comfortable to reside beyond the perimeter.
Nearing the end of the first and, if this is the Magic team of the future (one without Howard), Otis, we need to talk.
After the first, the Magic trailed 24 to 19:
* Both teams shot at the same rate, 45%/44%
* Both teams tied on rebounds, ten a piece
* Orlando turned the ball over 7 times, Portland 4 times
Second quarter began with little change. The Magic appeared lost and the Trailblazers hustled like a bunch of little bugs. Fortunately for the Magic, Portland offered no real threats or methods to take advantage of Howard’s childish behavior. Hey, that’s something to hold onto.
Over the better half of the second quarter both teams continued in their set ways. Orlando held stuck outside while the Trailblazers maximized teamwork, yet were still unable to get into their groove. With 5:44 to go in the second quarter, Orlando kept the gap within three.
First half concluded with the Magic down by 4, 47 to 43:
* No Magic player held scores in the double figure, Hedo and Earl Clark held the top spot with 7 each
* For Portland, Aldridge led with 11 points while Andre Miller chased with 5
* Sorry, that’s all I got for the first 24
Second half began too quickly and with a thud. Thus far this game had been about role players as neither team can boast of anything but a bunch of supporters. Perhaps the second 24 would produce a leader?
Magic brought the ball in first, finding the back of the rim by Hedo… no leader there. Portland tossed a three, secured the rebound, and witnessed a leaning layup by Aldridge (accompanied by a foul by Nelson). After a sudden three-point play, further misses by Orlando, and a slam by Portland, the Magic fell behind 52 to 43.
Portland orchestrated their largest lead at the 5:53 mark, 60 to 47. Looked like Andre Miller was stepping up to take the lead role, much like he did in college at Utah. His consistent performance has, up to this moment, been the difference between the two teams.
Back from the timeout, Richardson netted a three-point prayer as the timer sang. Two minutes came and went yet the Magic still found themselves lacking direction as well as the lead (down 65 to 52). Feeling the moment, the Magic hit three baskets in a row, tightening the lead back to seven. Portland responded with a time out and regroup.
After an extended dry spell from Portland and a molten hot moment from Orlando, the third quarter concluded closer than thought possible, Magic 66 and Portland 70.
If you were here:
* Jason Richardson led the Magic in scoring with 16 (only player wearing blue in double figures)
Final quarter began with noise, the first all night. Portland missed on their first possession of the quarter due to hearty defense. Ryan Anderson shrunk the lead to two with a layup as Jason Richardson continued hitting from beyond the arc (holding 22 points with 8 minutes remaining). Portland came back with a few baskets and, with five minutes to play, this one was suddenly up for grabs.
Magic called timeout with 347 ticks left and down by 2 (81 to 79). Arenas took the ball in, passed to Hedo, who then got hacked. Seconds later, Hedo threw a brick against the side of a clear barn. Portland came back with an Aldridge layup. Magic’s Ryan Anderson smoothed one up in retaliation. Back and forth play continued until another time out was reached with 2:47 left and the Magic down 88 to 81.
I will spare you the details as to how the wheels fell off. Needless to say, the Magic’s supporting cast of role players could not secure the victory, finding themselves at the wrong end of the scoreboard, 89 to 85.
Before I close, one more unsolicited opinion: until Howard grows up, the Magic fans will remain being the ultimate loser. Maybe it’s time to take off the cape and be a real man. Regarding the one-trick pony question in the beginning of this column, must I really answer that? I thought not.