After what could be considered his worst month as a professional basketball player in January, Vince Carter has temporarily silenced his critics with an unbelievable showing in an Orlando Magic 123-117 victory over the Hornets on Monday night.
Carter finished the game with 48 points against New Orleans, coming just three points shy of his career high. It was also one of the highest scoring performances by a Magic player in quite a while. You would have to look back to the early 2000s when Vince's cousin, Tracy McGrady, was in white and blue to see the type of Magic scoring performance put on by VC at the Amway on Monday.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Vince's scoring was the fact that he scored 48 points while shooting just four free throws in the game. Usually when you see 40 and 50-point games, players will be shooting around 20 free throws.
Carter was simply lights out from the field, particularly in the second half. He dropped 34 of his 48 in the second time-frame to help propel the Magic back from a double-digit halftime deficit.
It was almost a weird feeling watching Carter achieve the high scoring mark without his trademark dunks. VC dropped long jumpers, finger-rolls, floaters, and slashes across the lane all night. While he may not be the most exciting player in the league anymore, Carter is still capable of lighting it up any time he takes the floor.
His knees may be worn and his body a little broken, but perhaps tonight's performance can be just what he's needed this season. Carter has gone for 30 points a couple of times and scored in the high 20s, taking large amounts of field goals, but he just hasn't had a breakout performance in a Magic uniform before tonight.
Tonight, Carter brought that rare energy back to Amway when the crowd gets to cheer on the team and an individual. The way he had the fans captivated with jump shot after jump shot reminded me of when T-Mac scored 62 against the Wizards in a Magic uniform back in 2004.
It will remain to be seen whether Vince is able to bring out more performances like this, but he has certainly shut up some critical fans and media in the meantime.
Another impression left after tonight's game is the continued good play of Dwight Howard. The team seems to be making a consistent effort to get the ball inside more to Dwight when he is not in foul trouble. Howard scored 25 points and 12 rebounds to extend his double-double streak to 13 games, also blocking 46 shots during that span of games.
Other than that, a point for concern has got to be Orlando's tendency for getting down early in the last two games. Hopefully they are able to build off of their second half tonight and bring some consistent play for four quarters in their upcoming games.
With the win against the Hornets tonight, the Magic are now 2-0 in one of their toughest and most important weeks of the season. With wins over the Celtics and Hornets back-to-back, the Magic will now take on the improved Chicago Bulls and then travel to Cleveland for one of the biggest games of the regular season on Thursday night.
With the Cavaliers on an 11-game win streak and the Magic having won nine of 11 as of tonight, things are shaping up for an entertaining battle of Eastern Conference powers to lead into All-Star weekend.