The Orlando Magic averted disaster tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers, pulling out a 99-98 win in overtime despite trailing by four points with 21 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Jason Richardson, on the eve of his 30th birthday, drained a three-pointer from the top of the key after Andre Iguodala tapped him on the elbow, and then converted the improbable four-point play to knot the score at 90. Lou Williams' winning three-point try just before the horn bounced around the rim three times and out, setting up a final regulation possession for Orlando which ultimately failed.
And so Orlando entered the extra period, without its best player--Dwight Howard fouled out with 49 seconds to play after his good friend Tony Battie pulled the chair from under him--against an inferior team that was doing its best to give the game away. But the Magic did just enough in the final five minutes to eke out the win. J.J. Redick got an open transition layup off a Jameer Nelson steal, which Nelson followed up with a three-pointer after Philadelphia inexplicably backed off him in a screen-and-roll, giving him at least 6 feet of space on all sides. Philly's next possession ended with an emphatic Iguodala slam after a broken play as the 76ers' top player continued to gun it, perhaps hoping to atone for the foul on Richardson earlier. His one-handed throwdown from the baseline drew the 76ers to within a point at 95-94, and he gave them the lead seconds later with a jumper from the right elbow extended. He motioned to the crowd to calm down after sinking that shot.
But one could hardly have predicted what happened next, even given Philly's recent history of making awful plays late in games. Indeed, Louis Williams ran through Redick as Redick drilled a three-pointer from the left side, prompting the Amway Center crowd to erupt despite Iguodala's earlier request that they pipe down. Redick made the free throw and put Orlando up, 99-96, with 1:43 remaining. If it could just get some stops, it'd pull out the win.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
But you know by now the Magic won, so there's no sense in drumming up any more drama. Ultimately, Philadelphia beat itself tonight. Orlando has no excuse winning a game in which it shoots 8-of-24 from three-point range, leaves 18 points at the foul line, and lets three of its opponents' reserve pop off for double-digit points. I give Orlando credit for sticking with the game, clearly, and Richardson and Redick deserve kudos for converting those tough four-point plays. But Orlando once again got off to a bad start, scoring 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the first quarter. It once again proved unable to defend opposing small forwards, with Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, who swings between both forward spots, combining for 32 points on 12-of-21 shooting. After 16 games together, these issues should improve. But they've yet to.
So thank goodness for Nelson and Anderson tonight. Though Nelson needed 15 shots to score his 16 points, he broke down Philadelphia's awful perimeter defense with relative ease, getting to the basket time and again for scoring chances or kickouts. Twice he drove the lane, pulled the ball out to the baseline, and shoveled to Hedo Turkoglu for emphatic slam dunks. Nelson's probing, aggressive approach contrasted sharply with that of his backup, Gilbert Arenas, who played 13 dreadful, ineffective minutes. Arenas floated around the perimeter, did not look to drive, and took bad shots. He did not hold his own defensively, either.
Anderson rifled in his usual four three-pointers, which is becoming standard for him, but also converted his inside chances on his way to scoring a team-best 20 points. He sparked the Magic back into the game early in the fourth quarter, scoring on a rolling hook in a mismatch against Philadelphia swingman Evan Turner, then followed it up with a deep three-ball off Arenas' only assist--and only good pass, really--of the night.
It's not as though the Magic played horribly on an individual level. Turkoglu looked good on his two cuts to the basket, thanks to Nelson, and came up with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Still, he only tried 7 shots in 42 minutes, and I can't imagine coach Stan Van Gundy is happy with that low number. Brandon Bass had a rough night inside, finishing just 3-of-11 from the floor, but he pulled in an impressive 10 rebounds to lead all players.
The individual parts worked together okay, but the collective team was a step slow, and perhaps a bit tired, following a five-game road trip. That could explain, but does not excuse, the 23-of-41 performance from the foul line. Nor does it excuse the lax defense which permitted Philadelphia to score on three straight fourth-quarter possessions, giving the Sixers what seemed to be a permanent lead until Richardson's tremendous four-point play. Orlando has got to be sharper going forward. It has the raw talent and ability to reach the 60-win mark, but it's going to take much more energetic, inspired, and sound play than it's shown recently in order to pull it off.