NOTE: This is the first post by Philip Rossman-Reich, who is the newest staff writer for Orlando Magic Daily.
Mickael Pietrus rebounded the ball along the baseline and flung a shot over the defense as the buzzer sounded. It swished through the net for Orlando’s second buzzer-beating shot to end the quarter. If you add JJ Redick’s miracle fling off the backboard for three early in the fourth quarter, and you have a pretty good description of the Magic’s offense Sunday night in their only trip to Madison Square Garden.
Orlando used a couple of quick 3-pointers in the third quarter from Rashard Lewis and Pietrus to help turn a one-point deficit into a nine-point lead the team would not surrender. In fact, both teams shot an identical 42 of 83 from the field but the Magic hit three more 3-pointers (10 of 33 to be exact) for what turned into a 114-102 win.
After the third quarter, the teams pretty much exchanged shots in an up and down fourth quarter that saw Nate Robinson score 22 of his 24 points in the final period. Stan Van Gundy did not seem to mind.
Defense was an issue, but tired legs and a versatile and dangerous New York Knicks lineup made things difficult. Orlando was slow rotating on the pick and roll early in the game but progressively got better. The team made enough stops to win.
Offensively, the Magic got what they wanted starting with Dwight Howard. For the third straight game, Orlando made a concerted effort to get the ball into the post to Howard and he rewarded the team’s efforts to get him the ball. Superman posted 24 points on eight of nine shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Howard struggled with New York’s versatile big men — David Lee had 20 points and 12 rebounds but cooled off after a big first half and Jared Jeffries did a good job keeping Howard away from the basket — on defense. But they struggled with him on offense as Howard got into the lane and shed double teamers like he had done the previous two games.
Howard hit eight of his 15 free throws (not great, but good enough) and did what he needed to do to establish the offense around him.
It certainly helped as Rashard Lewis continued to look like he is almost completely back from his suspension. Lewis made his shots when he was open and continued to look to attack — something he cannot do enough of. Lewis had 26 points and eight rebounds.
Vince Carter also did his part with 23 points (on nine of 20 shooting), getting a steal late in the fourth quarter that all but ended any chance of New York making a comeback.
In the end, the game was a simple matchup of offenses. Orlando, playing its fourth game in five days, can be somewhat excused for the poor defensive effort. Robinson yo-yoed his way through the lane and got open shots in the fourth quarter. But the Knicks looked equally flat-footed throughout the entire game and the Magic are too good not to take advantage of it.
New York just did not have the firepower to keep up in this track meet. Kudos to Orlando for muscling out a win on the road and extending its road winning streak and completing a tough stretch in the schedule.