Sometimes you have to win ugly. Sometimes the shots are not falling and you have to grind out a win, doing whatever it takes to get there.
The Magic have not been winning when they do not have their best stuff. Certainly not against some of the better teams in the league or even the Playoff teams. Orlando has had flashes of greatness, but when the shots are not falling, there is nothing to fall back on.
Orlando found that something to fall back on in an 88-82 win over Philadelphia at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. It was a win that had Stan Van Gundy absolutely beaming afterward. Van Gundy continually called this the team’s best win of the season for the way Orlando fought and scrapped on a night when the team shot 36.3 percent and scored only 13 points in the second quarter — on a horrid 2-for-14 shooting performance.
That second quarter alone would have been enough to bury the Magic on most nights. And going up against one of the best defenses (at least statistically) in the NBA was not going to help.
Orlando might have packed it in earlier in the season when that second quarter happened. We had seen it a little bit before and the awful level of play would give you the sense that the Magic were in for another embarrassing effort. It was not that the Magic were playing horribly in the second quarter, they were not able to generate much offense and get into the paint to make the 76ers work on defense.
Dwight Howard was hurting pretty clearly as he was rushing post moves and short-arming shots. Nothing offensively was getting going and a 10-point lead turned into a 10-point deficit in the second quarter.
The Magic did not pack it in though. Instead they went on the attack.
Glen Davis scored 15 of his 23 points in the third quarter, aggressively attacking the basket for offensive rebounds and keeping possessions alive to kickstart the offense. In the fourth quarter it was J.J. Redick working off of Dwight Howard in the horns set to score 11 of his 19 points to push the Magic further and further ahead.
Then Howard himself helped put the exclamation point on the evening. Despite very clearly fighitng through some severe back pain, he recorded his ninth 20-20 game of the season with 20 points and 22 rebounds on just 4-for-14 shooting. Howard was the symbol of the team’s willingness to fight through it all tonight.
He made an impact defensively with two blocks. He got teammates involved with six assists. He got to the line and made his free throws, sinking 12 of 18.
As bad as Orlando played offensively, Philadelphia could not get its offense going either. That one stretch in the second quarter when Philadelphia took advantage of missed Orlando shots and got out on the break. Philadelphia hit many of its five 3-pointers in that second quarter run to take the lead.
The rest of the game though, the Magic’s defense shuttered the 76ers offense. Andre Iguodala had six points on 2-for-9 shooting. None of Philadelphia’s starters reached double figures. Philadelphia had its one spurt and then went into offensive shutdown as Orlando chased the team off the 3-point line (not that this is Philadelphia’s strategy at all). The 76ers looked as clueless offensively as the Magic did in the second quarter throughout the second half.
Philadelphia scored only 37 points in the second half, having missed its opportunity to bury Orlando in the first half.
This may not have actually been Orlando’s best win of the season. It certainly seemed to qualify as its gutsiest.
This was the kind of win that the 2009 and 2010 teams were very well known for. Maybe not when the shooting was this bad. But certainly on nights when things were not at all going right. The defense was something Orlando could rely on for one of the first times all season. Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis were strong individually on defense and the team was rotating and working together.
Maybe they have banded together. Maybe the distraction to get this team back together was what it needed.
That is pure speculation.
What is known is that the Magic found their mojo Saturday night in Philadelphia. Now they have to find it again the next time out.