Behind Dwight Howard's 30 points, 17 rebounds, and 14-of-19 showing from the foul line, the Orlando Magic held on to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, 99-95, to win consecutive games for the first time since January 21st and 22nd. Six Magic players scored in double-figures, with J.J. Redick's 13 off the bench placing behind Howard's dominant effort inside and on the foul line. Playing in his hometown on his 29th birthday, Jameer Nelson contributed 12 points and 8 assists for Orlando.
The Magic withstood a late rally by Philadelphia, which got two three-pointers in the final minute from Louis Williams to cut Orlando's lead to two. Poor execution on the ensuing defensive possessions doomed Philadelphia, though. On the first, it overloaded its backcourt trap looking for a steal, with Redick finding Howard with a long pass wide-open under the basket for a dunk, after which Elton Brand needlessly fouled him, leading to a three-point play.
The second mistake may have been more egregious. Williams' second big three trimmed Philadelphia's deficit to two points with 14 seconds remaining. Redick, a career 86.7 percent free-throw shooter, received the inbounds pass and the Sixers failed to foul him, letting him dribble around a bit before passing. Ultimately, the ball found Jason Richardson, who sank two free throws to put Orlando up four with six seconds to play. What might have Philadelphia been able to accomplish with an additional eight seconds? We'll never know now, but the decision not to foul Redick looks costly in retrospect.
|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.
I should note here issues with television and internet access--provided by Comcast, which owns the Sixers and Philadelphia Flyers, appropriately enough--prevented me from tuning in until the second half.
Orlando had a solid gameplan in place here to limit the Sixers' stable of athletes, especially in transition. Though Philadelphia plays at a slow pace in genreral, it also gets out on the break whenever possible, ranking third in the league in fastbreak points per game, averaging 17.4. Tonight, the Magic punted on their offensive glass, grabbing just 6 misses in 36 opportunities, in order to get back on the break. In turn, Philadelphia managed just 12 fastbreak points on the night. Taking away an opponent's strength is one way to play great defense, which Orlando did tonight despite Williams' 23 off the bench and Andre Iguodala's 21 points and 8 assists. Forcing Philadelphia to create offense in the halfcourt is a solid strategy, and were it not for the Sixers' 15 offensive rebounds, Orlando would have won with relative ease.
Philadelphia had a decent idea too: foul Howard when he gets underneath, playing his low percentage (57.9, to be exact) at the foul line. Howard only put up 13 shots on the night--his best ones coming on lob passes from Hedo Turkoglu--but he made 14 of his 19 freebies. On a more ordinary night for him, Philaelphia might have come away with a win, as Orlando shot just 10-of-26 from long range.
The Magic's shooters did get hot at the right time, though, going 4-of-6 on threes in the fourth quarter. That extra burst of offense from guys not named Dwight helped keep the Sixers at bay. Ryan Anderson's deep conversion, off a brilliant pass from Redick, from the left wing at the 3:35 mark of the fourth put Orlando up six points, a key possession.