Orlando used a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to help slow down a blazing Golden State team and get its fifth straight win 126-118 on Saturday night in Oakland. The Magic opened up as much as a 16-point lead in the opening quarter before foul trouble forced Dwight Howard to the bench and the Warriors used their overall speed and fast-breaking style to quickly erase the deficit.
Fortunately for Orlando, Golden State does not value defense, and Orlando was able to keep up and have a chance to win it at the end.
Vince Carter was key in the fourth quarter, hitting a couple of big shots late, and finished with 27 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Mickael Pietrus also came up big against his former team in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 points. Dwight Howard dominated early with 12 first-quarter points, but had only 17 in the game and eight rebounds as the quick (and small) Warriors lineup kept Howard away from the paint and in foul trouble for most of the game.
Golden State is a quirky team and it is tough to gauge what this game means in the story of this season. Both teams appeared to score at will and both presented matchup problems for each other. Both teams scored at least 25 points in each quarter — except for Golden State in the fourth quarter.
That fourth quarter was the tell-tale of which team was better as Orlando erased Golden State’s lead and held the high-scoring Warriors to just 18 points. The Magic has 29 points in the period and executed at the end of the game.
That is what Stan Van Gundy is probably most proud of. Otherwise, there was not much to be proud of defensively. Both teams were called for a whole bunch of fouls. Marcin Gortat had four fouls by halftime and Howard had three at the half and picked up his fifth late in the third quarter.
Orlando committed 29 personal fouls that led to 36 Golden State free throws. The fouling in the first half kept the Warriors in the game in the second quarter and helped them come back. Golden State did not fare much better, committing 28 personal fouls that led to 41 free throws. Luckily Orlando finally hit its free throws (36 of 41) and it was enough to ice the game.
Golden State’s small lineup kept Howard — or whoever was at center — away from the basket and allowed Anthony Randolph (28 points, 13 rebounds) and Monta Ellis (33 points, seven assists) lanes to the basket.
Again, this is a quirky team that lacks a true center. After Howard dominated Mikki Moore in the first quarter, Don Nelson went to Randolph to guard Howard and he easily sold the referees on some offensive foul calls and his quickness and agility frustrated Howard for the rest of the night.
The Magic struggled with their inside-out game with Howard out of commission with the foul trouble after a very efficient first quarter. It seemed like Orlando was just kind of cruising along with a 6-8 point lead for most of the first half. Then the Warriors turned it on and came back. When Golden State’s opponents miss shots, the team is pretty unstoppable on the break and Ellis took advantage of just about every missed shot the Magic had.
Both teams shot a blistering percentage from the floor — Golden State finished at 47.2 percent although it was much higher for most of the game; and Orlando finished at 52.7 percent.
This, to me, was a quirky game against a quirky team. The Warriors played their style of basketball, caught the Magic a little by surprise and frustrated them a little bit.
But in the end, Orlando had the poise and composure to step up in crunch time and beat a young and streaky Golden State team. How the Magic came back in the fourth quarter of a frenetic game like this was what was impressive and what the team should take away from the first game of this road trip.