Orlando Magic 81, Memphis Grizzlies 78


Haven’t we seen this before? After three quarters of slow, boring, lackluster play against an inferior opponent, the Magic flipped a switch in the fourth quarter and pulled away for the victory. In the fourth quarter Hedo Turkoglu scored 10 of his 20 points, Dwight Howard had eight of his 13 rebounds, and JJ Redick scored nine points. It was a pretty exciting finish overall — but when the teams are barely breaking 70 points late in the fourth quarter, it can only be so exciting. Random thoughts:

Marc Gasol defends Dwight Howard as well as anyone besides Yao Ming, Kendrick Perkins and everyone on the Pistons. Howard really has trouble with guys with wide bodies, or “all those fat guys” as the king puts it. Thankfully, Yao and Gasol are in the West, and it doesn’t look like the Magic are going to face the Pistons after all. And they’ve proven they can beat the Celtics whether Dwight fills it up or not.

The Celtics edged the Nets 106-104, and the Nets took two game-winning 3-point attempts at the buzzer. Vince Carter clanked a leaner from the wing, and Devin Harris got a good look from the top of the key but it feel short. The Celtics still hold a one-game lead over the Magic.

Patrick “Ch” Ewing was interviewed by NBA TV after the game, and he said he expects to fill one of the head-coaching vacancies this summer. His development of Dwight clearly shows in Howard’s game, and he deserves a shot somewhere.

Three keys revisited: 1. Slow down Mike Conley. No. Conley put together another nice game, scoring 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Rafer Alston, with five points and five assists, was not the better point guard tonight. 2. Make them bring the double-team. No. The Grizzlies brought the double-team occasionally, but they didn’t have to. Howard hit 5 of 11 shots and scored 14 points, and Marc Gasol did a nice job on him in one-on-one situations. 3. Don’t take them lightly. No. The Grizzlies are a bad matchup for the Magic to begin with, and the Magic came out sluggish. That’s not a good combination. If it wasn’t for some late heroics by Hedo and Redick, this one could’ve been a loss and the Magic would be pretty much locked in the third seed. Key figures: 2 — Magic victories this season when scoring less than 85 points. The other time was an 84-82 win over the Celtics a couple weeks ago. 7 — Assists for the Grizzlies, which is a season low for them and a season low allowed for the Magic. How do you score 78 points on only seven assists? The Grizzlies played at an incredibly slow pace, and scored most of their points in isolation sets. 56.7 — Mike Conley’s 3-point shooting percentage in the last eight games, after making 1-of-2 tonight. He’s hit 21 of his last 37 attempts. Magic’s best: The reserves, and yes — this will probably be the only time Tyronn Lue is ever mentioned in this section. Lue (7 points) was a game-high +19 for this game, while Tony Battie (8 points) was +17 and JJ Redick (9 points) was +11. Magic’s worst: Rashard Lewis is definitely the most frequent visitor of the Magic’s worst section, but he’s also rivaling Dwight for the Magic’s best on most nights. Lewis scored six points tonight, and he took only two shots inside the 3-point line. Just two rebounds, four fouls, a turnover and that’s all Rashard did tonight. Up next: The Magic will have a couple days off before hosting the Knicks on Friday night. I suspect Stan Van Gundy will give the Magic Thursday off, besides maybe a light shootaround in the morning. The team will finish the season with four non-playoff teams: New York, New Jersey, Milwaukee and Charlotte. Photo: John Raoux, AP