Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic shoots the go-ahead jumper over Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers. The basket gave the Magic a 100-98 lead with 23 seconds to play in overtime. Orlando won by that margin after a strong defensive stand.
Photo by Rob Goebel, the Indianapolis Star
The Orlando Magic continued their strong, heady play in games away from home by defeating the Indiana Pacers at the Conseco Fieldhouse in overtime, 100-98. Dwight Howard lead the Magic with 24 points, 17 boards, and 5 blocks. Jameer Nelson added 22 points and 9 assists, while Rashard Lewis scored 7 of his 23 points, including the go-ahead basket, in the extra frame. The Magic withstood a strong effort from Marquis Daniels, a graduate of Orlando's Edgewater High, who scored a season-high 25 points to lead Indiana.
For the third straight road game, Orlando trailed early, only to clamp down on defense while its offense came around. Howard, Lewis, and Nelson each made several clutch plays in the figurative absence of Hedo Turkoglu. The Magic's usual go-to scorer played miserably the whole night and was little more than a spectator in the fourth quarter in overtime.
Nelson lead the Magic's fourth-quarter rally after sitting the first four-plus minutes of the period. He and Lewis were dynamite in the closing minutes of regulation, as the following list illustrates:
07:31 - Nelson takes the ball and attacks the rim off the inbounds pass--one of the few times he will drive the lane this evening--and draws a foul on T.J. Ford. He converts both free throws. (IND 81-77)
07:05 - Ford misses a layup, but Nelson forgets to box him out...
07:03 - ... so Ford collects his own miss and puts it in. (IND 83-77)
The teams trade misses for a few minutes.
05:48 - Lewis, who had been resting with five fouls, checks into the game...
05:41 - ... and drills a three-pointer off a Nelson assist. (IND 83-90)
05:24 - Lewis grabs a missed put-back by Indiana's Jeff Foster.
05:13 - Nelson once again spots up from near the top of the key, and hits. (IND 83-82)
04:48 - Danny Granger, who struggled to find the range all night, hits a very tough shot fading to his left over Turkoglu's outstretched arm. (IND 85-82)
04:11 - Lewis strips Granger for his 5th steal of the night...
04:07 - ...then streaks down the court for a dunk. Granger fouls him weakly, and Lewis converts the three-point play. (85-85)
03:32 - Lewis makes a rare bad play, fumbling the ball into Ford's hands. Ford pokes the ball into the air, takes possession, and dribbles down the floor before tossing a lob to Daniels...
03:29 - ... who flushes it home. (IND 87-85)
03:13 - Nelson weaves through the defense, and spots up yet again on the perimeter. Buckets. (87-87)
02:57 - Nelson gets called for a ticky-tack foul on Ford. He misses his first free throw, but drills the second. (IND 88-87)
02:40 - Howard, touching the ball on offense for the first time in what seems like forever, gets hacked by Rasho Nesterovic. He converts both free throws and the natives get restless. (ORL 89-88)
The period closes with Indiana scoring 3 more points--Danny Granger went only 1-of-2 at the foul line on a key possession--and the Magic only scoring 2, off a Nelson jumper. On the final possession of the period, the Pacers run a high screen-and-roll with Ford and Nesterovic. Ford dribbles right, but gets trapped. He has no choice but to pass back to Nesterovic, a decent shooter who is nonetheless reluctant to shoot a long jumper with the game on the line. He drives to his right and lofts a hook at the basket. Howard blocks it cleanly. The Magic head to overtime, where they were 3-0 last year.
Nelson's shooting touch vanished in overtime, as he missed badly on his only two shot attempts. Luckily, Lewis was still on fire. He hit a deep three-pointer, which tied the game at 96, to answer Granger's buzzer-beating three on the Pacers' previous possession. After Howard hounded Nesterovic into a missed layup on the other end, he rebounded strong, established possession, then headed upcourt for Orlando. This time, the Magic isolate Lewis on Marquis Daniels, over whom he has a four-inch height advantage. With Howard, Turkoglu, and Keith Bogans drifting on the weak side, Nelson dumps the ball to Lewis on his preferred spot--the lower left block, extended--so Lew can go to work. He takes a few dribbles, then spins baseline and lofts in the fadeaway jumper. The Magic lead, 98-96, with 2:12 to play.
And here's where the game gets real interesting. Make the jump to read how the rest of it played out, as well as some general observations.
After Lewis' go-ahead jumper, the Pacers inbound the ball and look to their coach, Jim O'Brien, who elects not to call timeout. Ford dribbles upcourt with his head turned toward O'Brien to hear the play-call. The Pacers go to Daniels, who has the hot hand with a team-high 23 points, but he struggles to get a shot off. It's well off the mark, but a blown box-out assignment leaves the lane open for Daniels to collect his own miss and put it in, tying the score at 98 with 1:35 to play.
The Pacers' defensive intensity has really picked up in overtime, and the Magic have to work hard for all their looks. There isn't an exception on this play, as Nelson misses a long 26-footer which caroms out of bounds. Again, the Pacers do not call time out, and again Daniels gets the call. His errant shot falls out of bounds, giving the Magic possession.
Nelson, perhaps tired, isn't quite as quick as he was during the Magic's big fourth-quarter run. He can't get past Ford, who never runs out of energy, and takes a stepback, fadeaway jumper, with the emphasis on the step; I doubt I've ever seen any player at any level cover as much ground as Nelson did as he hopped backwards on that shot. Granger rebounds the miss, and the Pacers take a full timeout.
On the inbounds, the Pacers get the matchup they want; Troy Murphy, a left-handed, 6'11" power forward with post skills AND a reliable jump shot, gets the ball against Howard on the left side of the lane. Murphy drives right at Howard with his right hand, and appears to have him beat. As he leaps to lay the ball in, Howard swats the ball with his left hand and--here's the crucial part--keeps it in play rather than swat it out of bounds. Bogans is in the right place at the right time and recovers the ball in front of Orlando's bench. The Magic call for time.
As one might expect, the Magic run a screen-and-roll with Nelson and Howard; in other games, Turkoglu may have handled the ball, but both his decision-making in this game was bad (2 assists, 4 turnovers) and his shooting was worse (1-of-13[!]). In any case, Nelson dribbles left around Howard's screen. Just before Nelson comes around the screen, Lewis cuts across the baseline, from right to left, bringing Granger with him. When Nelson comes fully around the point of the screen, Granger must make a split-second decision: step forward to cut off Nelson's penetration, or stay with Lewis and hope one of his teammates rotates over in time. He decides to step forward, and Nelson reads it perfectly. He stops immediately and fires a crisp chest-pass to Lewis, who has his feet set and shoulders square on the left baseline, a step or two beyond where he hit the tying jumper moments ago. Once again, Lewis is right on the money. Orlando leads, 100-98, with 23 seconds to play. The Pacers call timeout.
I don't know what went on in the Pacers' huddle, but if what happened is what was supposed to happen, I don't agree with it. Granger never touches the ball, and Daniels gets only a brief handle. Ford and Nesterovic play a two-man game, with Nesterovic rifling the ball back out to Ford, who has to take a fadeaway jumper with Howard lunging at him. He misfires at the last second. Turkoglu grabs the rebound--perhaps the first good thing he's done tonight--and the Magic escape with the win.
The game was a real blast to watch, despite the poor shooting by both teams in the second half. For the most part, the misses were due to lock-down defense, not poor decisions, which made the game a bit more watchable. Once again, the Magic battled back after trailing for most of the game. Although the offense was horrid on the game--the offensive rating of 96.2 was the team's worst since going for 93.3 against Memphis--the defense made up for it. The team's late-game execution was superb, and it's encouraging to see that the team snapped out of its bone-headed, first-half play.
Some general observations:
Until further notice, do not count the Magic out in any game, home or away, against any team.
Lewis played the final 5:48 of regulation and all of overtime with 5 fouls. The Magic did well to hide him on defense so he wouldn't foul out. Either that, or the Pacers did a poor job attacking him. Take your pick.
J.J. Redick was the first shooting guard off the bench. He went 1-for-3 in 12 minutes for 2 points. Keith Bogans was the only other shooting guard to get off the pine, as Indianapolis native Courtney Lee received a DNP in his first NBA game in his hometown. Bummer.
Mickael Pietrus has a reputation as a mistake-prone player, yet his turnover rate of 11.2 this season is better than his career average of 12.9. That's a statistical way of saying that he hasn't screwed-up royally much. His night got off to a pretty bad start when he stepped on the baseline trying to maneuver past Granger on Orlando's first possession. He did it again in the final minute of the first quarter.
Brian Cook, who has played only 7 mop-up minutes all season, entered the game for Lewis with 9:27 to play in the second quarter. He did not impress. In 12 minutes, he scored 3 points on 1-of-2 shooting, with 2 turnovers. His decision-making remains questionable at best. His lone make was a deep three-pointer from dead center, his signature shot. Gaining confidence, he fired away on Orlando's next possession. It was a dumb shot, frankly. He was well guarded when he received the ball, dribbled 2 steps to his left and inside the arc, and--still well guarded--rushed a shot without his feet set. There were 17 seconds on the shot clock.
The next time he got the ball, he was wide-open, in his sweet spot behind the three-point line. He should have shot the ball, but he elected to put the ball on the floor instead, perhaps mindful of his last dreadful miss. Problem was, he had already gone into his shooting motion, and he shuffled his feet. Traveling. He did not make a strong case for his insertion into the rotation tonight. Magic fans frequently liken Cook to vintage Pat Garrity, and they are indeed similar: perimeter-oriented power forwards who shoot threes, are allergic to rebounds, and play for the Magic. Yet Garrity was at least a willing passer who usually made the smart play.
But, to Cook's credit, he did grab two defensive boards.
Turkoglu's play tonight is as bad as his stat line indicates. He shot a dreadful 1-of-11 from the field and 0-for-6 from the three-point line, and that's not counting two misses in particular--a desperation heave from midcourt at the end of the third quarter, and a floater from the left side of the lane that banked into a leaping Dwight Howard's hands for a stick-back dunk. His passes were off the mark, too. I have, quite honestly, never seen him play this poorly in his Magic career.
Bogans, not Pietrus, got Orlando's minutes at shooting guard down the stretch. That has been the case in all of the Magic's close games this season.
The Magic were lucky to catch Granger on an off night. Yet the Pacers caught Turkoglu on an even worse night, which offsets the former fact.
I give the Pacers a lot of credit: they have spirit. They'll win games like these eventually, as Ford and Granger mature. Getting Mike Dunleavy back will certainly help, too.
Here's Indy Cornrows' game recap.
Howard got back on track offensively, with 24 points, but he shot just 9-of-19 and had 5 shots blocked.
The Magic flew to Orlando immediately after the game to take on Houston tonight. The Rockets were also traveling, as they played the Wizards in D.C. as the Magic were battling the Pacers.