Maybe it was a sign of how much interest Orlando has lost in a waning regular season. Maybe it was a sign things will be all right and of a team that is quietly preparing for the postseason. Maybe it was some combination. Maybe it was simply unexplainable.
The Magic had one of their worst offensive performances — their third worst of the season behind a December loss to the Hawks and that unmentionable blowout against the Heat earlier in the year — in perhaps franchise history.
Yet somehow, it was a win. Somehow the Magic made only two 3-pointers, turned the ball over 20-plus times and failed to find any rhythm and little offensive energy and came away with a win. Hard to explain this one by looking at the box score. So go ahead and trash it.
This game just defies all logic.
Shooters know that next shot is going to go in. That theory sure was tested in Tuesday’s win over Milwaukee.
Jameer Nelson broke a 72-all tie by draining a step back two-pointer from the top of the key, breaking a game-long funk. Nelson then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Hedo Turkoglu turned it into a four-point game. Despite shooting 38.8 percent for the game, the Magic clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a 78-72 win over the Bucks on Tuesday at Amway Center.
The Hawks lost to the Spurs enabling the Magic to clinch home-court advantage, and the 76ers lost to the Celtics locking the Hawks into fifth place in the East. Orlando knows who it will play in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Tonight is certainly a game tape to burn.
The Magic raced out to a 14-0 lead, looking energized on offense thanks to the fast break and a lock down defense. The Bucks are not an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, but the Magic did a good job forcing them into mid-range jumpers really most of the night. Milwaukee was not really looking to attack the basket with Dwight Howard in and were not looking to get the ball to Andrew Bogut. The meant lots of mid-range jumpers clanking off the side of the rim in every way imaginable.
The Bucks shot 36 percent from the floor and his 6 of 20 3-pointers, getting those looks on the rare opportunities they did create decent ball movement or penetrate and kicked. Orlando’s defense was more than enough to deter them on most occasions, certainly Orlando’s season-high 13 steals attest to that.
At the beginning of the game, these missed shots turned into fast breaks and the Magic quickly raced ahead. The quiet culprit was turnovers. The Magic had 21 of them total in this game and the problem got worse as the game went on. And it kept Orlando from pulling away firmly and fully in this game.
Milwaukee hung around taking advantage perhaps of Orlando’s frustrations on offense. The Bucks did not help themselves with 18 turnovers themselves and allowing the Magic to get 11 offensive rebounds. In a game with so many missed shots, you can see how significant that many offensive boards can be.
There will not be many (almost any) night like this one. The Magic were getting good looks when they were not turning the ball over and they were not falling. All of them.
The Magic hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter… and that was it. Two-for-21 shooting does not look good any way you slice it. But this is a team that has to keep taking them, even on nights like this.
It certainly helped tonight that Dwight Howard was making his free throws and the Magic were getting to the free throw line. Orlando held a very healthy edge on the line throughout the game and ended up with 36 attempts. The Magic made 24 of them, led by Howard’s 8-for-13 effort. He finished with a team-high 18 points and 17 rebounds.
You can see stats did not mean much tonight. Orlando is very clearly, if not frustratingly, waiting for the postseason to start. It is coming soon, and the Magic can begin focusing on the task at hand now that they know who their opponent is.