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After back-to-back losses to the best two teams the East has to offer – the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls – the Orlando Magic got off the snide in a convincing fashion on Wednesday night with a 103-93 home victory over the Phoenix Suns.
A ten point margin of victory may not be much in today’s NBA, but in reality the final score did not tell the proper story of how lopsided the game truly was in the second half.
The Magic extended their lead to as many as 22 in the fourth quarter before the Suns were able to cut the lead in half with four and a half minutes remaining in the game. Orlando would not allow them to get any closer from that point on. The win improves the Magic’s record to30-18, putting them three and a half games in front of the Philadelphia 76ers for the number three seed in the conference.
“We just wanted to play our game, no matter what the situation was or what we scored,” said Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s starting point guard. “Whoever’s out there, just go out and play to our capabilities so we could be good collectively.”
Entering the game at an even 23-23, the Suns dropped back under .500 with the loss. However, the Magic were well aware that this team was not to be taken lightly because of their record. Despite losing a road game to Florida’s other team the previous night, the Heat, Phoenix stepped onto the Amway Center floor as one of the hottest teams in the league, having gone 9-3 since the All Star break and coming out victorious in 11 of their last 15 overall.
Magic forward Ryan Anderson, who had one of his best performances of the season and finished with a game high 29 points, had nine in the opening quarter on three-three pointers. The usual leading scorer for the Magic, center Dwight Howard, had yet another monster night with 28 points and 16 rebounds, giving him his 39th double-double of the season.
Thirteen first quarter points from Suns guard Jared Dudley kept Phoenix within striking distance after one, as the Magic held a slim 27-21 lead. Dudley only scored four additional points over the next three quarters, but still managed to be the Suns leading scorer with 17. The Magic began opening up the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Suns 30-23 and taking a 57-44 lead at the half.
In fact, it should have been a 59-44 lead, but backup point guard Chris Duhon inexplicably missed an open breakaway layup as the final buzzer of the first half sounded. Luckily for the Magic, that didn’t come back to haunt them.
Suns’ point guard Steve Nash was responsible for 12 of his team’s first half points, but was held scoreless in the second half. He also had just two assists on the night. Orlando kept its foot on the gas pedal in the third, and by quarter’s end they had acquired a 19 point lead, 81-62.
The game appeared to be in hand until Phoenix went on a late run to make it a 96-85 game, however Anderson’s career high-tying seventh three pointer following a Magic timeout killed the Suns’ momentum. The Magic would not surrender their double digit lead and made their way across the finish line with ease.
As a team, the Magic made 11 of their 23 three point attempts. Just as important, they limited the lethal shooters of the Suns to just 4/12 from beyond the arc. Fans kept their eye on Suns’ center Marcin Gortat, who was traded by the Magic last season and is currently having his best season by far, averaging 15.9 points and exactly 10 rebounds per game.
Gortat was Howard’s backup from 2007 until he was dealt in 2011. Although he was able to rip down nine boards, the Magic held him to just four points altogether. “Dwight played extremely well, and I thought we defended Marcin’s offense very, very well,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.
Both teams play their next games on Friday night. The Magic will play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Suns will visit the Indiana Pacers.
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