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New Orleans Hornets 92, Orlando Magic 89 (OT)

In a slow game marred by poor shooting on both sides, the New Orleans Hornets topped the Orlando Magic, 92-89, in overtime, snapping Orlando's 9-game winning streak despite 29 points and 20 rebounds from Dwight Howard. Three three-point baskets in the final 57 seconds of regulation helped the Magic force the extra period against the host Hornets, who led by 7 before Jason Richardson buried the first three-pointer in that sequence. But trailing by a point with 11 seconds to play in the extra frame, Howard clanked two free throws, forcing the Magic to foul at the other end. Marcus Thornton sank two freebies to bring his team-high scoring total to 22 points, J.J. Redick missed wildly on a trey that would have sent the game to a second overtime, and Orlando left the Big Easy with its first loss in three weeks.

Anytime the new-look Magic get 29 and 20 from Dwight Howard, and 21 points from Richardson, while holding the opposition to 43.7 percent shooting, it should roll. But the poor shooting from Brandon Bass, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, and Hedo Turkoglu (8-of-43 from the floor, 21 points) crippled Orlando on a night when two more baskets would have earned it a victory. Credit the Hornets for making some key plays, including an offensive rebound with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to maintain possession, to key the win, and for forcing the Magic into some poor decisions in a second-quarter run which helped them gain control. Franchise point guard Chris Paul had an ordinary game by his standards, shooting 5-of-12 for 12 points, but Emeka Okafor, Thornton, and Trevor Ariza added just enough offense for New Orleans to prevail.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 94 94.2 45.7% 5.4 22.6 14.8
Hornets 93 98.4 46.6% 12.6 19.1 11.8
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Some nights, the plays don't break your way, but let's not let the Magic get off so easily with such an assessment. They had plenty of chances in the first half to stay in the game, but continued instead to launch long jumpers early in the clock, or to turn the ball over, rather than run their offense. Against a mediocre Hornets team--even with this win, New Orleans is 15-16 in its last 31 games--those mistakes can't be excused. Were it not for three three-pointers in the third quarter from Ryan Anderson, and the late barrage of triples mentioned above, Orlando would have lost this one handily.

And I'm still not sure why coach Stan Van Gundy elected to play Bass over Anderson in the fourth quarter. Bass struggled to get easy shots the entire night, and didn't defend anyone particularly well; after one whiffed defensive rotation leading to an Okafor hoop in the first half, Van Gundy called timeout specifically to replace Bass with Anderson. But Anderson exited the game for good with 31 seconds remaining in the third, despite his 14-point, 8-rebound, 2-block effort in just 21 minutes. Bass and Turkoglu closed the game at power forward instead. On a night when Orlando struggled for offense, Anderson ranked third in scoring and could have helped more if given the chance.

I anticipate we'll all hear a lot tomorrow morning about how Howard's missed free throws indicate some sort of fatal character flaw, or why the Magic will never win a championship, or some other such nonsense. Magic players apart from Howard missed 50 field goals. Points scored in the fourth quarter, or overtime, count just the same as points scored in the first two minutes of a game; there's no bonus on the scoreboard for hitting "clutch" baskets. Don't pin this loss squarely on him, is all I'm saying. Win as a team, lose as a team.

Six Magic players logged at least 32 minutes in this game, and they have to travel to Oklahoma City tonight for a nationally televised contest against the Thunder Thursday evening. That game would've been tough to win anyway, but taxing six/eighths of their rotation less than a day earlier only complicates that task.