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New Orleans Hornets 98, Orlando Magic 97

Hedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic drives past Peja Stojakovic of the New Orleans Hornets. The two were once teammates with the Sacramento Kings.
The Magic's Hedo Turkoglu drives past the Hornets' Peja Stojakovic in New Orleans' 98-97 victory over Orlando on Tuesday night. Turkoglu scored a game-high 26 points, but Stojakovic had the last laugh on April Fool's Day, hitting the go-ahead three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Photo by Kevin Kolczynski, Reuters

Damn. What a way to lose. The Magic dropped a tough one to the Hornets tonight, 98-97, despite having a lead as large as 14 points. Here's the boxscore.

The Hornets wanted this game more, and we only have to look at rebounding to see why. Their 21 offensive rebounds (in 49 opportunities) compensated for their poor field goal shooting. And make no mistake: the rebounds they got weren't balls that took lucky bounces. Jannero Pargo and Chris Paul both took boards away from Dwight Howard. That's a terrible showing on the defensive glass, and we didn't compensate by dominating on our end. Our final offensive rebound total -- 2 -- sets a new franchise low. Inexcusable.

Anytime Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis combine for 50 points on 31 shots, and we hit 13 three-pointers, we should win running away. Instead, the Hornets' extra effort put them over-the-top. They earned this win.

However, the officiating seemed suspect at times. As a rule, I never directly blame a loss on the referees' whistles; it's our fault for letting the game get close enough for a single call to swing momentum in either direction, and the officials weren't the guys beating the Magic to every loose ball. However, I should note the Magic were called for 25 fouls compared to the Hornets' 18. As a result, the Hornets enjoyed a solid 27-15 edge in free throw attempts. The game-changing play came when Maurice Evans was whistled for an away-from-the-ball foul when he got tangled-up with Morris Peterson. Replays showed Peterson clearly pushed Evans first, and fell because he merely lost his balance, but it didn't matter. Peja Stojakovic hit the penalty free throw, then drilled a three-pointer on the resulting possession -- just his second field goal of the night -- to give the Hornets a 96-95 lead they would not relinquish.

Final notes:

  • The Magic got the final shot with a chance to win. Coming out of a timeout, Turkoglu inbounded the ball to Lewis, who drove to his right and... dished the ball to Keyon Dooling, who came up well short on the final shot. That's the best we could do? Yes, Tyson Chandler gave Lewis some trouble when he switched to cover him, but Lewis needed to be more aggressive and assertive.
  • Sun Sports displayed a graphic at the beginning of the fourth quarter that showed the Magic have the fifth-best record of any NBA team when entering the fourth quarter with the lead. I called it a jinx as soon as it happened. Hate to say I told you so, ALRIGHT.
  • Dwight Howard played 42 minutes, yet got just 9 shots from the field and 5 shots from the  line. He needs more touches if we expect to win.
  • Jameer Nelson was a late scratch. Carlos Arroyo got the start at point guard, and had a game to forget: no points on 5 shots. Jameer might have been able to make the difference tonight.
  • Think we miss Brian Cook? Pat Garrity took Cook's spot in the rotation, going 1-of-4 and registering a plus-minus rating of minus-14. Ouch.

We have a tough matchup Cleveland in a nationally televised affair on Saturday. BIG GAME for us. Sure, we're essentially locked into the East's third seed, but we need to come out and stomp the Cavaliers to show the league and its observers that we can't be written-off.