All Orlando needed was a spark. One great play to wake up a lethargic effort and a lethargic crowd, hungry for playoff intensity but not getting the opponent that has earned it. The Wizards hung around, but it was evident the Magic were waiting to open up their lead and cruise to a victory.
Jason Williams provided that spark.
Williams got free for a 3-pointer with two seconds left to give Orlando a 16-point lead. A pretty good margin heading into the final quarter against a team headed to the lottery. But Matt Barnes knocked away the inbound pass and found Williams, who quickly drained his second three to end the quarter.
Orlando’s firm, but tenuous 13-point lead was now a comfortable 19-point lead. The Wizards could not fight their way back and the Magic did not need their starters in the fourth quarter for a 121-94 win Wednesday at Amway Arena.
Williams and the bench was the key to this game. Williams scored eight points off the bench. That was on the low end for his bench mates as Orlando’s bench scored 65 points.
Orlando played with a solid effort throughout the game, but it felt like something was missing. That “big game” edge or postseason edge was not present. It might be why Washington hung around the entire first half, especially the first quarter. The bench, especially JJ Redick and Mickael Pietrus, stepped in and brought an energy that was not there early.
Redick continued his fantastic season with 16 points. Mickael Pietrus also continued his strong stretch of play since coming back from the ankle injury with 16 points. Redick and Pietrus combined to hit on four of five 3-pointers.
Five players off Orlando’s bench had a plus/minus of at least +14 and three (Redick, Pietrus and Ryan Anderson) were +20. Plus/minus is a difficult statistic to look at in raw numbers. But that kind of dominance is very difficult to ignore.
Orlando’s bench is deep. Everyone has been extolling what a value the bench has been. It has come in handy with all the injuries the Magic have fought through this season. But it has had its ups and downs too. The players sometimes settle for jumpers and get stuck shooting jumpers, rarely going inside the paint.
That did happen at times tonight. But what the bench unit has increasingly learned is to work the ball inside and operate the same type of inside-out strategy that works with the starters in. It comes from attacking the basket.
They obviously do it very differently with Howard off the floor. It comes off of Mickael Pietrus driving to the basket, Jason Williams running the pick and roll or JJ Redick coming off screens. Orlando got all three of those working in the third and fourth quarters to pull away and take the win.
All was not good tonight though.
Stan Van Gundy expressed some frustration after the game over the team’s defense. Washington shot 50 percent tonight and ran a relatively efficient offense. Clearly not enough for the Wizards, who did not play great defense either allowing the Magic to shoot a blistering 57.9 percent from the floor and 13 of 22 from beyond the arc.
The defense was not particularly bad, despite the gaudy shooting numbers. Again, it was that Orlando lacked an edge the team will need in two weeks. The rotations were OK and Dwight Howard dominated the boards in the first half — he had seven boards in the first quarter and finished with 10.
It was not like Washington got in the paint at all. The Wizards did not. Andray Blatche, who has been a pleasant surprise since Washington remade its team at the deadline, could not get going and was forced away from the basket. He had 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.
Nick Young (21 points) and Mike Miller (16 points) did a lot of the damage. But, again, it was enough to peeve Van Gundy. But not enough to really threaten Orlando.
Not on this night at least when every shot was falling, and when it was not the Magic could get a stop.