ORLANDO — Magic fans — really all fans — freak out about this. Perhaps they should. Perhaps they should not. There is some magical fascination with the last two minutes of a game. Like they are more important than the other 46 minutes in a game.
If you look at those, Jason Richardson probably looks as good as any other player. A lot of fans might be frustrated with his play the other 46 minutes. But from the four-point play against Philadelphia to last night’s 24 points on 6-for-8 shooting from long range, Richardson’s legend late in games is growing and growing.
“You just want to go out there and win the game. That’s what it is all about,” Richardson said before Friday’s game against the Bulls. “There’s nothing on your mind beside trying to win the game. That’s where I think I get the extra level and extra attention to go out there and try to complete the game. It might not always be scoring. It might be defense and rebounding with me. I always get up for the fourth quarter, just to try and close the game out.”
No doubt Richardson was crucial in the Magic completing their comeback last night. But he has faced some struggles throughout his tenure with Orlando.
Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post took a deeper look at Richardson’s struggles before Thursday’s game, but the basic numbers are that he is averaging 13.7 points per game and is shooting 43.1 percent from the floor, 37.3 percent from long range and has a 52.5 percent effective field goal percentage. If that effective field goal percentage were to keep up, it would be the worst since his days in Golden State.
But something different happens in the fourth quarter. Richardson becomes much more effective later in games. According to 82games.com (which admittedly does not update as often as it should), Richardson ranks eighth in the league with 42.9 points per 48 clutch minutes. That is ahead of Derrick Rose, ahead of LeBron James and ahead of Ray Allen.
He shoots 46.7 percent from the floor and a 63.3 percent effective field goal percentage in crunch time according to 82games.com. Those numbers are clearly much better than his numbers during the rest of the game.
The trick then is getting him to play this way the rest of the game.
“He’s had some real good games for us. I know it lifts anybody’s confidence to do what he did,” Stan Van Gundy said. “In this league, now you are going against the best defensive team in the league tonight. You’re confidence goes up and down this league because you always have the next challenge and the next great player. He had a great great game last night.”
Van Gundy said to him Richardson is a very even-keeled guy who does not change his approach from a night-to-night basis. Richardson is the type of veteran who understands the ups and downs of the game and a season and keeps himself ready.
However, Richardson noted, a game like last night’s could be huge for the team’s confidence as the Playoffs draw near.
“That’s huge for our confidence,” Richardson said. “At the same time, we know we can’t be coming back like that. We’re getting close to the playoffs, we got to learn how to sustain some of their runs and not let their runs get bigger and bigger. It was a learning process. It definitely gave us confidence because we know if we continue to fight the whole game, we know we will ahve an opportunity to win when the game is on the line.”