It was a sloppy affair between two teams in similar circumstances. Perhaps that’s why it was so fun.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, with their talent-laden roster and proven coach were a preseason lock to make the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic, with their freshly acquired veterans and playoff-hardened coach would make it their mission to make the postseason as well.
At well past midseason, poor execution and a lack of defense have landed both teams on the outside looking in on their goals.
It’s no wonder, then, that this game needed overtime to settle everything.
In that crucial period, the Timberwolves would calm the chaos for a 111-105 win, but not without some theatrics first.
The opening tip was stolen by Magic point guard C.J. Watson, who was then promptly blocked by the Wolves’ Nemanja Bjelica. The Magic would miss their first five shots of overtime, but hang in to be doomed in the final possessions.
Magic point guard Elfrid Payton stood at the line with his team down just 3 in the final 25 seconds of overtime. He would miss a free throw that gave the Wolves the ball and a two point lead. After chaos on the inbound nearly resulting in a jump ball, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine sank both at the line to seal the Magic’s fate. Orlando would never lead in the final period.
Meanwhile, the Wolves needed a bit of luck to even keep it close.
A total of seven uncharacteristic shots swung the game in favor of the Wolves: a career-high six three-pointers by point guard Ricky Rubio, a 23 percent shooter on the year, and a half court heave by Shabazz Muhammad to end the third quarter.
The Magic, looking buried by a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, would rattle off a 13-2 run to roar back into contention. With momentum on their side the Magic failed to close out the Timberwolves, who would tie the game on a vintage Andrew Wiggins jumper with ten seconds left in regulation.
The ensuing step back three by Magic man Elfrid Payton would ensure that overtime was inevitable.
For four quarters, these two teams that have struggled to find cohesion all year scrambled around the court displaying a ton of energy – if not a great amount of basketball IQ.
The Timberwolves shot just 43 percent from the field, but were able to adapt to the lack of buckets with an abundance of foul shots. Minnesota outshot Orlando 26 attempts to 19 at the free throw line.
Orlando’s way of overcoming a clunky offense was through second chance points. The pinstriped attack would crash the glass, losing the rebounding battle but dominating second chance points through the first three quarters.
Out of the gate, it would look like another defensively uninspired performance from the Magic, as they would allow the Wolves to shoot 48 percent from the floor in the first quarter.
Responding to coaching, the Magic tightened up and controled most of the game. Led by forward Serge Ibaka early, and point guard Elfrid Payton down the stretch, the Magic would display their ability to spread the ball around at times.
When the offense was humming, it was due to to good ball movement. Seven Magic players had two or more assists.
When the offense stalled, it was actually due to indecision and overpassing, very different from the typical iso-ball that has plagued the Magic this season.
In the end it felt like several games in one, but the box score would just show another notch in the loss column for the Magic.
The Orlando Magic (19-31) will return home this week, facing the Indiana Pacers (25-22) on Wednesday and Toronto Raptors (29-19) on Friday. The Magic have yet to beat the Pacers this season, but secured an upset victory on Sunday night over the Raptors in Toronto.