ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -The franchise with the NBA's twice reigning defensive player of the year finally started getting back to its roots.
Dwight Howard had 18 points and 14 rebounds, Vince Carter scored 19 points and the Orlando Magic smothered the Memphis Grizzlies for an 89-72 victory Monday night.
``We're a defensive team. That's what we call ourselves and that's what we talk about,' Magic forward Quentin Richardson said. ``For us to say those things, it was good to go out there and be that.'
Against a usually high-scoring team, no less.
The Magic forced 18 turnovers, held the Grizzlies to 36 percent shooting and their fewest points in a game in two seasons. It was a much-needed change for an Orlando team that lost two straight last week and nearly a third with lackluster efforts defensively.
Marc Gasol had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Mike Conley scored 11 points in the Grizzlies' third straight loss. Memphis entered the game averaging 104 points but could get nothing going offensively.
``That's the best defense that they've played, that I've seen on tape, since probably early in the season,' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. ``We were rushing things, but it was their defense that was causing it.'
The game was as sloppy as it gets at the start.
There were players bouncing balls off their legs and out of bounds. Poor passes. Missed catches. Double-dribbles and traveling calls. If there was a way to cause a turnover, chances are it happened.
The teams accounted for 20 turnovers - each with 10 - in the first quarter alone, finishing with 38 total for the game. The difference was the Magic at least managed some offense between mistakes and opened a 47-31 lead just before the half.
``Our offense hasn't been as fluid as we would like it to be, but defensively we were up and active all night,' Howard said.
The Grizzlies whittled the deficit to five points in the third quarter behind some sharp shooting from Conley and O.J. Mayo. They just couldn't sustain enough offense or keep turnovers from costing them dearly.
Rudy Gay, who hadn't scored fewer than 18 points this season, had only nine points for Memphis. It was the fewest points the Grizzlies have scored since they lost 86-66 at Portland on March 28, 2009.
The loss was humbling enough for Memphis to have a team meeting after the game.
``We needed to talk. It's never too early to have a team meeting,' Conley said. ``The issues we have as a team, being accountable individually, we've got to step it up and have all the guys in tune.'
Orlando used its twin centers, Howard and Marcin Gortat, for extended minutes. The center combo clogged the middle and forced the Grizzlies to stay on the perimeter, and Memphis just couldn't hit a shot.
Mickael Pietrus had a huge 3-pointer late and Howard converted a three-point play to help Orlando pull away 73-58, a lead was never seriously challenged.
The victory avoided the Magic's first three-game home losing streak since December 2007, when they lost four straight. Orlando lost to Utah and Toronto at home last week, the first two losses at the new Amway Center
``If we're serious about being contenders, we have to play like this,' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``Now we also have to play like this and play better offensively. We can't be like that at the end of the year. But we're 10 games in. What's important tonight is we got back to playing with intensity, and we need to stay there.'
NOTES: Florida Marlins president David Samson was touring Orlando's new Amway Center before the game along with others. The Marlins, who have a retractable-roof ballpark opening in 2012, were one of several teams in Orlando for Major League Baseball's annual meetings scheduled to see the new technology and amenities at the NBA's newest arena. ... Howard's technical foul in the first quarter against Minnesota last week was rescinded by the NBA, the Magic said. That brings Howard's technical fouls down to four this season. ... Magic SG J.J. Redick missed the game with back spasms.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved