Could things go any worse for the Magic entering the final minutes of Wednesday’s game against the 76ers? Dwight Howard picked up his sixth foul and his 13th technical foul all on one play. It gave the 76ers a three-point lead with 49 seconds left. Andre Iguodala made it five and all hope seemed loss.
Then 81 percent free throw shooter Lou Williams split a pair of free throws following a JJ Redick layup. The door was open and the Magic trailed by four. But the door was open, ever so slightly.
When Jason Richardson came across a screen to the top of the key and rose up for three, Andre Iguodala made the fatal mistake that surely cost his team the game. Richardson is slowly gaining a reputation for clutch shots in a Magic uniform. He drained a 3-pointer and was hit on the way up by Iguodala — so hard that Stan Van Gundy claimed he could hear it from his end of the floor.
The shot and the free throw, which was not a sure thing on this night, tied the game with 17 seconds left and forced overtime.
JJ Redick then added a four-point play in overtime and the Magic survived Iguodala’s short jumper with time winding down and Evan Turner’s runner in the land. Somehow, someway, Orlando picked up a 99-98 win over Philadelphia at Amway Center on Wednesday night in the first overtime game at the Amway Center.
This was a strange, strange game offensively for the Magic. Stan Van Gundy assessed it pretty bluntly in his postgame press conference. The last five games, the team has only been playing on one side of the ball at a high level. Tonight it was defense.
Orlando gave up 90 points in regulation, 43 percent shooting for the game, 3 for 14 shooting from beyond the arc and a 96.1 offensive rating to Philadelphia. The only problem, the 76ers went to the line 32 times and made 23. That was the big problem defensively for the Magic, especially with Howard out of the game. Orlando was struggling to keep Philadelphia in front and fouling to bail itself out.
The 76ers had plenty of opportunities to pull away in this one and led the game virtually throughout, but every time the Magic needed a stop, they found a way to do it. And that was even with Dwight Howard out of the game.
Howard was so critical to this game, it is actually somewhat surprising the Magic were able to pull it out in overtime. Howard changed the game on the defensive end especially. With him in the game, Philadelphia could not get to the basket or drive the lane. The 76ers became a perimeter-oriented team with Howard in the game.
With Howard out of the game, Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, Lou Williams and the rest of the 76ers were able to attack the basket and make the Magic defense really work. And for those stages of the game, Orlando was struggling. The team was thankful Philadelphia was missing shots for it.
Howard was +5 in this game. If he had made free throws at a consistent rate, he would have been much higher and this game would never have gone in to overtime. Howard’s impact was not measured by his 18 points and seven rebounds.
Like the rest of the team tonight, it was measured by the missed opportunities to put this game away and make it a more comfortable victory.
The Magic shot 41 free throws tonight … and missed 18. Howard went 10 for 22 himself as Philadelphia tried to parade him to the free throw line at every opportunity. Howard was shooting free throws pretty well until tonight. A big blip for the Magic tonight.
Opportunities were plenty as the Magic could not find their stroke. The 3-pointers Richardson and Redick hit for the critical four-point plays were the only ones they made all night. The two combined to go 2 for 9 from long distance. Jason Richardson, who was shooting at an efficient rate entering the game, hit on only 2 of 11 field goal attempts.
Luckily, Ryan Anderson shined with another big game. He scored a team-high 20 points and made 4 of his 10 3-pointers and was extremely aggressive offensively. No player was playing with as much aggression or energy as Anderson.
The team needed the energy as it was seemingly sleepwalking through this game, waiting for the rest of the team to wake up and take control. It felt like so many of the other games recently where the team played hard for a half.
It never really came. That is until Jason Richardson’s fortunate play.