The Orlando Magic snapped their eight-game losing streak on Friday by upsetting the visiting Washington Wizards, 97-92, behind a brilliant all-around game from Tobias Harris. The second-year forward scored 30 points, setting a career-high for the second time in as many games, and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Magic.
Orlando withstood a 35-point outburst by John Wall in the victory. With less than 30 seconds to play, Washington trailing by three, and Wall pushing ahead in transition, Harris guessed correctly that Wall would not try the layup and instead by closed out to the trailing Trevor Ariza, ontesting his three-point try. Ariza's shot missed the mark and Andrew Nicholson grabbed the rebound. The Wizards would foul intentionally to prolong the game the rest of the way, but the tactic failed.
Washington had a chance to tie the game on a four-point play as it inbounded with 14 seconds to play. Wall drove to his left into the lane and dished to the right corner, where none of his teammates were, sealing the win for the Magic. Harris then stepped to the foul line and split a pair of foul shots to set a new career-high for the second time in as many games.
The Magic got solid production from their bench, a rarity in this lean season. Beno Udrih tallied 10 points and nine assists filling in for Jameer Nelson, who exited the game in the first quarter, while E'Twaun Moore tallied 15 points and Nicholson added 14.
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Early in the first quarter, Wall drove past Nelson, prompting Kyle O'Quinn to slide over and protect the rim. O'Quinn was a half-step late and raked Wall across the arm, sending the fourth-year poing guard to the floor. Officials whistled O'Quinn for a flagrant-one foul, a decision that they upheld after review. Wall didn't stay on the floor for long, and the fall wasn't as scary as it may have looked on television.
Harris carried Orlando early, punishing the Wizards in the open floor and on back cuts. At the 3:58 mark, Harris threw down a one-handed jam on a Washington defense that had time to set itself, as Trevor Booker had scored just six seconds before. Booker and Martell Webster exchanged frustrated words at midcourt following that play, which brought Orlando to within four points at 19-15.
Even with Emeka Okafor, one of the league's better interior defenders, manning the middle, Orlando had no trouble getting inside for easy scores. In a two-minute, 50-second stretch in the first quarter, Orlando recorded five dunks. One reason for that success is O'Quinn's presence. The Magic ran their offense through the rookie center in the high post, pulling Okafor away from the rim. Three of O'Quinn's four first-quarter assists led to dunks.
On the strength of that dunk-filled flurry, the Magic closed the first period on an 11-4 run to take a 24-23 lead. Harris had 11 points in as many minutes and accounted for five of Orlando's 11 field goals.
The Magic, with Nelson in the locker room due to a sprained right ankle, struggled to generate offense from anyone besides Harris as the second quarter began and most of the second unit on the floor. To Orlando's credit, the team remained aggressive in driving the ball to the basket and earned free throws on consecutive possessions for what seemed like the first time all year. Some college-style, three-man-weave action created an open jumper for Doron Lamb, which the rookie drilled to break a 31-all tie at the 7:22 mark.
Orlando, which does not ordinarily force many turnovers, came up with eight in the opening 18 minutes as Washington got sloppy. Those miscues led to 11 Magic points, helping to kick-start a Magic offense which initially struggled in the half-court, but which improved as the game wore on. Washington owns the league's sixth-best defense and has excelled at that end throughout the season, but one wouldn't know it based on Friday's game.
A pair of free throws from Maurice Harkless gave Orlando a 16-point lead, its largest of the half, with 41 seconds to go. Washington responded with an Okafor layup and a coast-to-coast layup by Wall at the final horn, bringing the visitors to within 12 points at 58-46 at half. Harris had 17 points, while Nicholson added 10 in just 13 minutes. Wall scored 18 on 7-of-14 shooting for Washington, but his teammates shot 11-of-27 (40.4 percent) for 28 points.
Wall opened the second half with two jumpers and a pair of free throws, bringing the Wizards to within eight. Garrett Temple then drilled a three-pointer from the corner in front of Orlando's bench, and Martell Webster sank two foul shots. Trevor Booker hit Okafor with a bounce pass on high-low action for a dunk. In less than four minutes, the Wizards had cut Orlando's 12-point halftime lead to one. Okafor's jam prompted Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn to call a timeout.
The Magic responded to that timeout by booting the ball away. Udrih drove from the right side of the floor and dished to Harkless in the left corner, but the pass sailed wide of its target and into the seats.
A pair of free throws by Temple moments later--drawn on a fast break which Wall beautifully orchestrated by waiting for the trailer--gave Washington a 63-62 lead, its first since the 9:59 mark of the second quarter.
Whatever Washington coach Randy Wittman told his team at halftime, it worked: after a poor first half, the Wizards played more actively on D in the second, forcing the Magic to missed eight of their first nine two-point baskets after intermission. The Magic bailed themselves out with back-to-back threes by Harris and Udrih, however, which baskets seemed to ignite the team. It scored twice in the three possessions immediately following those scores.
Washington led briefly in the third quarter, but Orlando closed it on an 8-0 scoring run to take a 78-71 lead into the fourth. Harris capped the third with an emphatic stuff of a Wall layup try, bringing the Amway Center crowd and the Magic's bench to its feet.
The energy in the building dissipated between the third and fourth periods. The Magic came up scoreless on their first five trips of the fourth, allowing Washington to knot the score at 78. A pull-up jumper by Moore finally broke the tie with 8:33 to go in regulation. Orlando built its lead to 86-80 at the 6:30 mark, forcing Wittman to call timeout. Wall was set to check in anyway, and while it's true that Washington shaved one point off the Magic's lead with Wall resting, Wittman could have been more aggressive by inserting Wall sooner and taking advantage of Orlando's poor start to the quarter.
The momentum shifted in Orlando's favor when Wall, who had helped draw the Wizards to within four, threw a pass to the corner which Harris picked off and took the other way for a layup and-one. That basket put Orlando up seven points and could have represented a six-point swing, had Washington managed to get three points on that possession instead of turning it over.
Harris made another key play with 1:22 to play, getting the ball on the right wing on an Udrih kick-out and with Orlando leading by only three points. Harris used a head fake to shed Ariza, who was closing hard, and then stepped to his right to bury a 19-footer, putting Orlando up by five.