After trailing by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, the Orlando Magic rallied to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats in overtime, 111-102, for their 50th win of the season. Making his first start at shooting guard, spelling the resting Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas led the Magic with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting (6-of-9 on threes) for his best offensive outing since joining Orlando in December. Backcourt-mate Jameer Nelson played a brilliant game himself with 18 points, 9 assists, and 2 blocked shots.
This game was the fourth between Orlando and Charlotte this season, but the first to be a shootout as opposed to a defensive struggle; the average final score in the first three meetings was Orlando 93, Charlotte 84. That changed tonight, between the Magic's hot outside shooting (14-of-35 on threes, or 40 percent) and sluggish defense until the final period. Second-year guard Gerald Henderson worked Arenas all night en route to scoring a career-high 32 points, and while it's true he made his share of long two-point shots, it's also true that Arenas didn't fight enough the screens set to free Henderson hard enough, which contributed to his impressive showing.
Matt Carroll hit a long two-pointer to give the Bobcats an 81-71 lead at the 10:23 mark of the fourth, prompting a signature early timeout from Stan Van Gundy, whose Orlando club responded with an 8-0 run over the game's next 97 seconds.
An altercation between Quentin Richardson and Henderson on Charlotte's next possession may have woken up the Magic even more. Richardson bodied Henderson cleanly as Henderson looked to create space on the right wing, inside the arc, and received a personal foul. During the dead ball, the pair exchanged words, as Richardson stuck his right index finger in Henderson's face. Then, Richardson shoved Henderson in the face with both hands He earned two technicals to Henderson's one.
|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.
With Dwight Howard resting, the Magic continued their post-skirmish surge; Brandon Bass scored five straight points, outright abusing Kwame Brown off the dribble for two straight possessions, to tie the score at 84. Hedo Turkoglu bagged a running jumper on Orlando's next trip to give it its first lead, 86-84, in over 30 minutes of game time.
The Magic continued moving the ball well and making shots until the end of regulation as Charlotte scored the final five points of the first 48 minutes. Brown sank his second jumper of the night to bring Charlotte within 3, then tipped the ball away from Nelson as Nelson tried driving to the basket. His steal set up D.J. Augustin's tying three-point attempt, but the Magic had possession and 16.6 seconds with which to work.
They didn't. Nelson held the ball until five seconds remained before Bass set a high screen for him, but Augustin picked Nelson's pocket and raced upcourt for a winning layup attempt. Nelson put just enough pressure on Augustin to force him to try a reverse off the glass, driving from left to right, which rimmed out.
The Magic owned the overtime, with Howard controlling the lane defensively. Orlando forced a shot-clock violation and three long, low-percentage jump shots on Charlotte's first four possessions. Howard's defensive work all but assured victory for the Magic, who scored on each possession following those stops to build a 105-96 lead.
I don't think Orlando can be too thrilled with its effort, on either end, for the first 37 minutes of this game, but it looked fantastic in the final 16, doing enough to pick up a win against a lottery-bound club missing its best player, Stephen Jackson. Yet the Magic still pulled off the win while resting their starting two-guard, Jason Richardson, and his backup, J.J. Redick. They got a great scoring game out of Arenas, who did little else worthwhile (2 assists, 5 turnovers). And they looked like something approaching "elite" during their comeback. That's probably good enough for them, but not for Van Gundy.
Orlando will take it easy the next two days, practice Saturday, and host the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. Howard, who picked up his 18th technical foul tonight, faces a suspension, which really takes the air out of what could be a preview of the second round of the playoffs. Now that the Magic have that 50-win milestone in their back pocket, I expect them to ease up on the gas even more in their final three games of the regular season.