Dwight Howard led by example Friday night, carrying the Orlando Magic to a 111-88 blow out of the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder.
Howard dominated both ends of the floor, scoring forty points, blocking six shots and grabbing fifteen rebounds. Howard has now scored thirty or more points in four straight games.
Media outlets made Howard’s scathing comments about his team’s play, leading news coming into Friday’s game. But it was Superman’s actions— not his words that did all the talking.
With a depleted front court— Kendrick Perkins had not yet reported to his new team, the Thunder had no answer for the NBA’s most dominant big man.
More impressive, the entire team seemed to find a way to incorporate Howard’s individual offensive game, into a complete team offensive approach.
The Orlando Magic played Stan Van Gundy’s Four-Out-One-In from an inside out perspective. Letting Howard take advantage of mis-matches the entire night.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy inserted a few more tweaks to his offense. The Magic put less focus on the quick three, and looked to penetrate more.
As they did during their early December nine game winning streak, the Magic pushed the ball up court. The pace put pressure on the Thunder defense, and provided opportunities for the Magic’s wing players to find easy passes to Howard in the paint.
Van Gundy also made a lineup change, bringing second year forward Earl Clark off the bench first. Clark played scrappy defense in one-on-one and team defensive situations. His five rebounds— three offensive, helped the Magic hold a lead when the Thunder made their third quarter run.
It wasn’t all roses for Clark, he went 0-4 from the field, and shot 3-8 from the free throw line. The young forward still needs plenty of work. But if he learns his role, he could give the Magic some serviceable minutes during the post-season.
Hedo Turkoglu continued to play sloppy defense for most of the game. Though he only scored seven points, taking a total of five shots the entire game, Hedo quietly found his way to ten assists.
Jason Richardson, JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson contributed, all three scoring in double figures and shooting fifty-six percent from three point range.
Nelson added nine rebounds along with five assists, to a much better defensive performance than his last match-up against Russell Westbrook. Westbrook torched Nelson for a triple-double in their last meeting.
Westbrook ended the night with a quiet eighteen points and three rebounds.
Kevin Durant struggled, only shooting thirty-two percent with twenty-three points.