Orlando Magic 121, Washington Wizards 94

It took until the late stages of the third quarter, but the Orlando Magic managed to open up a huge lead against the Washington Wizards, and won the game going away by a 121-94 final. Dwight Howard's 17 points, 10 boards, and 3 blocked shots led the Magic, which got a whopping 65 points from its bench. J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus led that charge by scoring 16 apiece, and the second unit as a whole connected on 10 of its 13 three-point attempts. Coach Stan Van Gundy deployed all 12 of his players, and each of them scored at least 4 points in a crowd-pleasing affair that featured more dazzling plays than any other regular-season Magic game I can remember. Third-year shooting guard Nick Young scored 21 points to lead all players, while former Magic swingman Mike Miller made each of his first 5 shots before cooling off, finishing with 16 points, 9 boards, and 5 assists. The victory is Orlando's 16th in its last 19 games as it continues to power toward the postseason.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Wizards 89 101.8 52.6% 15.4 14.3 15.7
Magic 89 136.0 66.4% 26.3 29.0 13.5
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Given the final score, and the Magic's spectacular fourth-quarter highlights, it's easy to forget how competitive the game was. The Wizards exploited the Magic's many first-quarter miscues and jumped out to a 23-17 lead before Orlando closed on a 7-2 run. And though the Magic's second unit pushed Orlando's lead to 13 points, the Wizards closed the second period on a 11-4 run of their own as Orlando lost its focus on D, and thus trailed by just 6 at intermission.

In fact, Washington only lost one point off that margin deep into the third quarter, as Andray Blatche's swopping dunk at the 3:41 mark, which prompted Magic play-by-play man David Steele to liken the lanky 7-footer to a whooping crane, cut the Magic's lead to 7. For whatever reason, that play seemed to stir the Magic, who turned up the intensity on both ends of the floor and put a swift end to the Wizards' comeback hopes. The Wizards missed 2 shots and committed 2 turnovers on their next 4 possessions, and just 2:20 after Blatche's dunk, Washington faced a 15-point deficit. Backup point guard Jason Williams put an emphatic end to the third period with a pullup three-pointer with just 2 seconds to play, pushing Orlando's lead to 16. Matt Barnes deflected Fab Oberto's lazy inbounds pass to Williams, who then flung in another deep three-pointer at the final horn to give Orlando a 19-point edge.

It's a little surprising that Washington managed to hang around for so long, but Young and Miller had their outside shooting stroke going, and rattled home (or, in Miller's case, swished) enough long two-pointers to keep the Wizards in it. Van Gundy's concerned that the Wiz shot 50% from the field, but if I were him, I wouldn't be. Two above-average jump shooters got hot and made some difficult shots. What's more important is that the Magic took away Washington's inside game and made life very difficult for Blatche, who torched them for 32 points on 14-of-23 shooting in their last meeting. Tonight? Blatche shot 5-of-19, with 4 of his 14 misses getting blocked, and scored just 13 points. That's his third-lowest scoring output since the All-Star break, when the Wizards' trading away Antawn Jamison opened up playing time for Blatche; his very worst output, 2 points, came in a game he played just 7 minutes due to disciplinary reasons. In brief, Orlando made the Wizards' featured player look terrible. That two perimeter players stepped up doesn't detract from the Magic's sterling interior D.

The offense? Yeah, that worked too. Sloppy passes, a shot-clock violation, and a three-second violation made it look ugly early, but it started humming as the game wore on. Fantastic ball movement, with Orlando tallying 24 assists on 44 baskets. A few stand out in particular:

  • Jameer Nelson threading a bounce-pass through traffic to Vince Carter cutting along the baseline; Carter threw down a one-handed slam.

  • Pietrus giving an eyebrow fake from the left wing, then firing a laserbeam to Marcin Gortat for an easy layup.

  • Ryan Anderson's no-look touch pass to Redick in the right corner for a trey to open the second period.

  • Williams throwing a one-handed bouncer from the left sideline to the right wing--basically the width of the darn court--to Redick in transition for a reverse layup over Earl Boykins

  • Back-to-back alley-oops for Gortat in the fourth, including one courtesy of Redick about 35 or 40 feet from the rim

Plenty of highlights in this game, for sure, which made slogging through the mostly low-energy first half worth it. You'll want to find that reel somewhere.

The Magic have talked often lately about going into the playoffs on a high note. It took a while for them to round into form tonight, but once they did, they looked unstoppable, albeit against a weak team. Redick contrasted this year's finish to the regular season to last year's:

"Last year we didn't play particularly well the last five or six games," Redick said. "We had some injuries, we had some guys out, we rested guys. I think that kind of showed in that Philly series last year."

And thus Orlando keeps rolling to the finish with very few blemishes. One of them, however, is the play of its starting backcourt. Nelson and Carter missed 11 of their 16 shots and scored just 18 points between them. Williams and Redick outplayed the men they back-up once again. It's great that those two guys are in rhythm, but there's no question that Nelson and Carter need to find their shooting stroke before the playoffs begin.

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