The Orlando Magic managed to survive a late 4th quarter rally by the Portland Trailblazers to secure a 107-104 win in Portland.
Although the score seems close, it’s far from an accurate representation of the night. The Magic controlled the first three quarters of the game thanks to an impressive, balanced offensive performance that, frankly, was their best this season. In fact, the Magic maintained a 20 point lead for the majority of the game, only letting it slip for short instances.
Looking at the box score, you’ll notice 7 Magic players in double digits. Redick led the pack with an impressive 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists coming off the bench… can you say sixth man of the year? Not impressed? In the first quarter alone, the Magic knocked down 11 three-pointers. The ball movement was certainly impressive to watch.
If that still doesn’t impress you, consider the Trailblazers lead the league in perimeter defense, allowing opponents to shoot a mere 23.7% from beyond the arc. The Magic, overall, connected on 16 out of 27 treys–that’s 59.3% on the night.
So why was the score so close? Remember that guy from the Hawks last year who ensured the Magic’s first round exit? No, not Joe Johnson. I’m talking about Jamal Crawford (a name that still induces cringes from citizens of Orlando). It turns out he plays for the Trailblazers now… and he’s still not a fan of the Magic.
“He loves seeing our guys,” joked Magic coach, Stan Van Gundy. “He always comes out big against us.”
Ouch! Those wounds are still fresh, Stan…
Crawford led his team–coming off the bench no less–with 24 points on 13 for 20 shooting, three of which were beyond the arc. Credit the Magic for playing lock-down defense on the guy but it really didn’t stop him at all. He came alive in the fourth quarter to cut a 20 point lead down to a 3 point game. His shots were inexplicably lucky at best impressive to watch, especially in the fourth quarter.
Mr. 4th Quarter–that pizza eating, crazy shot-taking superhero–answered back with a layup and three-pointer of his own to put the game out of reach.
“That was huge,” Stan Van Gundy said regarding Turkoglu’s play. “To me, [his shots] were the game winning shots.”
The Magic weren’t all perfect, however. Although he usually doesn’t like criticism, Dwight Howard is truly to blame for the eventual closeness of Wednesday’s game.
Sure, he had 13 points and 13 rebounds with good defense in the paint blah blah inside presence (sorry, it gets old saying it after a while). The fact is, Howard went 3 for 12 from the free throw line. Add those 9 free points he blew to the box score and suddenly the game isn’t so close anymore. He may be a three-time reigning defensive player of the year but his free throw shooting is truly hurting his team.
In the closing minutes, the Magic had to keep the ball out of Howard’s hands for fear of sending him to the line. At one point I thought I saw Jameer Nelson attempting to swat the ball out of Howard’s hands. After all, his free throw percentage has consistently gone down every season. This season looks to be no different.
But hey, the Magic finally beat a playoff calibre team, handing them their first loss at home this season. This may be a time for you daredevils out there to feel some optimism towards the Magic. Don’t worry, us realists will be waiting back at home for you.
by Brandon Hayhurst
Education Career Services