It took a team effort, a gargantuan team effort, to just keep this one close. The shots would not fall on the final night of the back-to-back-to-back. You could see the legs and the attention to detail were not there all the time. Fatigue is not an excuse, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist.
The will was there though. The will was certainly there.
In the final moments, Ryan Anderson missed a 3-pointer that would have given Orlando a one-point overtime win. Instead Dwight Howard had to fight off two Spurs to give the Magic one more shot at a win or a second overtime (what is another five minutes?).
Howard got the ball out to the top of the key. It swung to J.J. Redick. He pump-faked and took a side step, preparing to lift for what would be a game-winning three. It went flush through the net.
Only, everyone knew it was too late. The red lights were clearly on. Dwight had an exasperated look as it released, knowing it was too late. All the fighting, all the effort was just a bit late. A hair too late.
Gary Neal hit the Spurs second 3-pointer of the game to give San Antonio some breathing room. Von Wafer drew a foul on a layup, but missed his free throw to tie the game. The Spurs missed a free throw after the Magic failed to tie the game again and the Spurs held on for an 85-83 overtime win at Amway Center on Wednesday, snapping the Magic’s five-game win streak.
J.J. Redick was no goat tonight. His brief lapse to try and free up for a shot as time expired might have been a necessity or out of fatigue. But the end of the game really belonged to Redick. The Magic trailed by four with 90 seconds to play and Redick scored the final six points of the quarter to force overtime. He received a nice pass from Jameer Nelson while cutting along the baseline to draw a foul. After a big Magic stop defensively, he took the ball to the rim and scored to tie the game.
It was one of the glimmers of offensive clarity either team had in this game. As the score suggests, both teams could not hit a shot all night.
Redick was just 4 for 11 from the floor for 13 points. He was not alone though missing shots. Jameer Nelson struggled mightily even though he got good looks all over the floor with four points on 2-for-16 shooting. Ryan Anderson scored 17 points on 3 for 13 shooting. The team as a whole shot 33.3 percent from the floor.
The team was just never in a flow offensively. Shots were short and the legs were not there — or maybe they were being saved defensively. Orlando tried to force feed Dwight Howard and that worked well enough. He had 24 points and 25 rebounds including nine offensive rebounds. The Magic made a living on the offensive glass and that made up for some of the bad shots.
Orlando grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. A lot of times, as the Matt Guokas pointed out numerous times, the best offense was throwing it off the glass and letting Dwight Howard clean up. He did a lot of that.
The offense was a mess, but the grit we have come to appreciate from this team showed through. The Magic were hustling all night and had the energy and motivation to keep playing hard.
The defense was as good as it has been all year. The team was scrambling and rotating very well and fighting hard to contest shots. There were some open threes that the Spurs just missed. There were moments when the defense broke down. Orlando though buckled down when it needed to.
Tony Parker was wreaking havoc in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 25 points and making seven of his eight attempts in the final stanza. But the Magic made a nice adjustment toward the end. After doubling him hard off the pick and roll and using the longer Larry Hughes to try and corral him and keep him out of the paint, Howard laid back and forced Parker to take a tough fadeaway over him. That miss enabled Redick to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
Bringing on the bigger defender helped keep Parker out of the paint. And, really, nobody on San Antonio got in the paint with much consistency. Neither did anyone on the Magic. That was just the kind of game it was.
Call it a game that happens because of the lockout or because of the crunched schedule or whatever. The win was there for the taking. The Magic had the heart and effort to pull it out. They just did not have the shots.
As Stan Van Gundy always says, that is not something you can always control. Orlando was just a hair off tonight. And it might have been something just out of their reach.