WASHINGTON, D.C. — Stan Van Gundy spoke to most of his players individually when the Orlando Magic reconvened after the All-Star break. The coach explained what each player has done well so far and what he needs to improve in the second half of the season.
Van Gundy spoke with Ryan Anderson on Tuesday afternoon on the Washington Wizards' practice court. The coach told his young power forward that he needs to focus more on his defensive rebounding.
"The reason you don't defensive rebound," Van Gundy remembered saying, "is because you can't score on a defensive rebound."
The message seeped in. On Wednesday night, Anderson led the Magic in rebounding as well as scoring and helped his team to a 102-95 win over the feisty Wizards at Verizon Center.
"He's coming at me because he wants to see the best in me, and that's the way I'm taking it," Anderson said. "It's not something I'm looking at like a negative or anything."
Anderson scored a team-high 23 points and gathered 10 of his team-high 15 rebounds off the defensive glass.
The Magic needed all of those contributions.
Orlando built a big first-quarter lead and saw it vanish in the third. It assembled another lead early in the fourth quarter, only to see it evaporate with 6:57 to go.
With the game tied 83-83, Jameer Nelson swished a 3-pointer, and on Orlando's ensuing possession, Anderson made a trey of his own.
After Washington's Maurice Evans made a layup to close the gap to 89-85, Dwight Howard collected an offensive rebound, made a putback layup as he was fouled and converted the foul shot to put Orlando up 92-85.
The Magic finally had the space they needed.
"It's still not a 48-minute effort," Van Gundy said. "That seems to be a real struggle for us right now: to play with energy for 48 minutes. But there were some good things."
Rookie DeAndre Liggins played just his third NBA game, replacing injured backup small forward Quentin Richardson. Liggins helped contain Jordan Crawford down the stretch after Crawford willed the Wizards back into the game with 14 of his 18 points in the third.
At a time when most Magic perimeter defenders give their opponents too much room, Liggins made sure he did the exact opposite.
"That's what I do," Liggins said. "That's why they drafted me: my defense and my toughness. I just tried to crowd his airspace and tried to make him put it on the floor."
Magic point guards had no success slowing down speedy John Wall, who finished with 33 points on 13-of-25 shooting and added four assists.
"We couldn't make shots down the stretch and we couldn't get the stops we needed," Wall said. "They made some open shots and did a great job sharing the ball."
Washington (7-28) looked fresher than Orlando (23-13) at times, even though the Wizards had played the night before in Milwaukee.
Still, they had no answer for Anderson, who has been the Magic's breakout player this season.
Anderson typically does most of his damage on offense from beyond the arc.
This time, he led his team in rebounding for the third time this season and in scoring for the 11th time.
Anderson has a knack for rebounding on the offensive end. On the defensive end, he often defers to Howard or zones out.
Van Gundy wants Anderson to change that.
"It's a challenge and I'm accepting it," Anderson said.
Not a bad way to start the season's second half.
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