Carter has big game to propel Orlando
Sure seemed that way on the court, too.
Carter had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead the short-handed Orlando Magic to an easy 99-82 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
The struggling shooting guard had by far his most efficient game in more than a month, helping Orlando to its seventh win in eight games. Carter had shot just 28 percent in January. “Maybe January just wasn’t my month,” he said.
Charlie Bell and Luke Ridnour had 13 points apiece for the Bucks, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Milwaukee fell to
0-3 against Orlando this season.
Carter, who had 25 points in a win against the Bucks on Nov. 30, again was a big reason why.
“Maybe he’s coming out of his funk,” Bell said. “He’s been a great player in this league for a long time. He’s one of those guys who’s not going to miss shots forever.”
The Magic were playing without Jameer Nelson (hyperextended left knee) and Mickael Pietrus (sprained right ankle).
It didn’t seem to matter.
“He has to remember who he is,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of Carter. “He’s had one bad month, but he has had an unbelievable career.”
Carter was back in attack mode on offense, just as he was when he was with the New Jersey Nets. And maybe there was a good reason.
Former Nets coach Lawrence Frank was sitting about five rows behind Orlando’s bench and will be observing practices this week, offering advice to the Magic staff. Frank, fired in November after an 0-16 start, coached Carter the last five years until he was traded to Orlando last offseason.
Whatever the reason, the eight-time All-Star was back to his old self early.
After the Magic went down by 12 points in the opening quarter, Carter was dishing and driving with the kind of aggressiveness that had been missing during his slump. He made a pair of 3-pointers to finish with 15 points at halftime, leading a big push that gave Orlando a 50-36 lead at the break.
Asked what this game meant for his confidence, Carter said it never wavers. He also couldn’t resist a chance to make a joke.
“Yeah, to keep you guys off my back,” Carter told reporters, smiling. He later added, “Most of the frustration comes from everybody always harping on it. And I understand that, the different facets of the game and what comes with it. I just say keep playing.”
Bell’s three-pointer capped a 9-2 run to start the third quarter, cutting Orlando’s lead to 52-45. But the Bucks simply didn’t have the depth or the defense to keep pace with the Magic.
“We got off to a decent start and we had some pretty good ball movement, but we can see our guys even winding down a little bit during that period of time,” Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles said. “They basically outplayed us on every spot on the floor, except for the first few minutes of the game.”
Especially in the paint.
Dwight Howard sprinted out to block a 17-foot jumper by Kurt Thomas, his fifth of the game, in the final minute of the third period, sending the ball into the front row.
Howard, who finished with 22 points, came back on the other end with a two-handed alley-oop dunk on a pass by Jason Williams that wasn’t even that close to the rim. Orlando eventually went ahead 77-57 at the start of the fourth quarter.