In one of the most exciting NBA games in recent memory, in which the combatants combined for an NBA-record 36 three-pointers, the Golden State Warriors rallied from a 21-point deficit to defeat the Orlando Magic, 123-120, in overtime thanks to 17 triples in the second half. Shooting guard Monta Ellis played the entire game and led all scorers with 39 points, including a career-high 7 three-pointers, while Dorell Wright scored 32 on 8-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Their work offset another brilliant performance from Orlando's perimeter trio of Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu, which combined for 78 points on 28-of-52 shooting, with 12 threes of its own.
But the Magic couldn't withstand the Warriors' three-point onslaught. Less than five minutes into the second half, Golden State knotted the score at 71, wiping out a deficit that stood at 14 points at intermission, thanks to triples from Wright, Ellis, and Stephen Curry.
Turkoglu's three-pointer off an Ellis turnover with 8 seconds remaining in the fourth period wound up sending the game to the extra period, as the Warriors turned the ball over on their ensuing possession when Dwight Howard poked the ball away from Curry before he could even get a shot up. But the Warriors' white-hot shooting continued into the next five minutes, when they made 4 more threes. The Magic made 3 of their own, plus a three-point play from Nelson, but neither of their triple-tries on their final possession found the bottom of the net, sending Orlando to its third loss in its last four games.
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
The Magic had this game well in hand in the second period, when they built their lead to 21 points with a pair of Richardson free throws at the 2:53 mark. But Golden State charged back, sandwiching dunks for David Lee and Ellis with threes from Wright and Curry, with Orlando only tallying a Nelson three and a foul shot from Ryan Anderson during the stretch.
This point of the game has to bother the Magic more than the threes they gave up in the second half. Wright and Ellis may never shoot so well from deep ever again in their careers; Ellis owned a career three-point percentage of 31.9 prior to Friday's game. Orlando could concede the same looks it did tonight to this same Warriors team and come away with a win 95 times out of 100. But instead of maintaining control of the game going into halftime, Orlando let its guard down and the lead slipped away, setting the stage for the Golden State's improbable comeback.
The Magic made their share of mistakes late as well. Fouled on a three-pointer in overtime, Richardson stepped to the line with a chance to tie the game with three makes. Instead, he missed two, giving the Warriors possession with a two-point lead and 25 seconds left.
Being that the Warriors are the Warriors, they found a way to foul up yet another opportunity to secure victory when Wright threw a lazy inbounds pass Nelson picked off. He streaked up the floor and laid the ball in to tie it. Except he didn't. Referee Eli Roe, trailing the play, whistled Nelson for a late offensive foul as he bowled Ellis over. It appeared to be the right call, even if Ellis was moving, as he had at least established himself outside the restricted circle. Perhaps a non-call would have been more appropriate. But Nelson can't risk a charge in that situation. And as brightly as he shone in some moments, he made some key errors in others. With 35 seconds remaining in regulation and Orlando facing a three-point deficit, Nelson missed a wide-open layup. At the 1:19 mark of overtime, he dribbled off a Howard screen and badly settled for a jumper instead of probing the Warriors' defense more diligently. All told, Nelson committed 5 of the Magic's 19 turnovers, raising his average for the last 9 games to an unacceptable 3.4.
Something needs to be said about the effectiveness with which Golden State handled Howard, whom it's ill-equipped to guard from a personnel standpoint. Lee did an admirable job holding his ground in the post and probably got away with more contact than he ought to have, but for a guy known more for his flammability on defense than his performance elsewhere this season, he did amazingly well. Coach Keith Smart varied his double-team schemes to keep Howard occupied, and as a result Howard got few open looks. He finished with just 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting in 46 minutes despite his lilliputian opposition, a credit to Smart's tactics and the Warriors' defensive execution of them.
The Warriors just made another three.
Few teams will win when they get shelled from the outside like Orlando did tonight. I maintain that offensive problems, namely ball control, had more to do with the Magic's defeat than their defense of the arc. Some nights you're hammer and on other nights you're the nail, and--if you'll permit me to mix metaphors--that may not change no matter who crisply you rotate.