Hedo Turkoglu has always been dependable in late-game situations for Orlando. As both its late-game shot taker and its triggerman out of bounds. The Magic have come to trust Turkoglu in those situations.
So when Turkoglu tried to inbound to Jason Richardson with the Magic down three and 24.7 seconds left and saw the ball sail past him into the scorer’s table on the other side, it was puzzling and frustrating. Maybe Richardson was being held. Maybe Richardson was pushed. It did not matter. Orlando squandered an opportunity to defeat a team with a record above .500 for the eighth straight time.
Stan Van Gundy and the Magic were left questioning themselves and where this season might go. After a 99-93 loss to New Orleans to open a 7-game homestand, Van Gundy said it simply. His team is not playing well enough to defeat the good teams in this league.
Orlando committed 16 turnovers and, despite some stout defense in the second half, could not get enough stops to pull this one out. Willie Green hit a twisting, fading away jumper to break a tie and give New Orleans the lead for good at 93-91. Orlando was in the midst of a stretch of 10 consecutive possessions without a point. The Magic finished the game with 12 of 13 possessions ending in a missed shot or a turnover.
Not the execution the team would want.
Stan Van Gundy put a lot of blame on himself after this one. He questioned himself on why he did not keep Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark in the game after they energized Orlando and got the team back into the game in the third. He questioned himelf on why he did not get Dwight Howard the ball more, admitting Howard’s free throw shooting and Monty Williams’ strategy of fouling Howard almost immediately scared him away from giving the ball to his superstar.
Hindsight is 20/20. It is clear nobody executed at the end of this game.
The big question is why Orlando did not get the ball to Howard more. it was not that New Orleans did a particularly good job against him. He came out of the gates ready to play scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter alone. He was just about the only offensive option early as New Orleans just looked more into the game at that time.
Howard only took 12 shots in the game, and matched it with 12 free throws (making only four). His usage rate was at 19.9 percent according to the Advanced Stats Calculator. His usage rate for the year is at 27.6 percent. Orlando was not getting the ball to Howard as much as they normally do, and it hurt as the team fell further and further into the abyss and struggled to put the ball in the basket.
Howard was dominant when he got the ball to score 20 points and grab 17 rebounds. More telling was that Howard had just a single turnover.
New Orleans really did not do a whole lot special. The team just played hard, got after the boards and took advantage of opportunities when they were there. The Hornets, one of the slower teams in the league by pace, got out on the break, taking advantage of nine first-half turnovers. They were faster and more aggressive getting to loose balls. A late second quarter run gave New Orleans a nine-point lead.
Orlando got a great effort in the third quarter from its bench as the team woke up from its funk.
The team, after a slow start in the quarter, got out on the break and played with energy. JJ Redick, Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark did a great job simply executing and pushing the pace.
Clark especially provided a ton of energy in scoring a career-high 14 points. Redick also had 14 and Arenas scored 11 and had four assists. That group did a great job as Orlando scored 28 in the third quarter.
It makes it particularly confusing as New Orleans won the fourth quarter 19-13. The defensive energy was there. The offense was not.
The Magic continued to struggle shooting the ball, hitting on only 5 of their 21 3-point attempts. They shot 46.2 percent in the game too. Not horrible, but clearly not enough.
In the end, turnovers were the issue and Orlando failed to execute in this loss.