Instant reaction: Magic 91, Sixers 78


Here are some quick and random thoughts after the Magic’s game against the Sixers here at Amway Arena. We’ll be back later with an update from the players and coaches.

Without a doubt, this was the best showing we’ve seen from the Magic this series. They played lockdown defense, scored when they needed to and didn’t crumble in the fourth quarter. Led by an inspired performance by Dwight Howard and a late scoring surge by Rashard Lewis, the Magic kicked the Sixers in the teeth and took over this series.

Rashard Lewis scored 24 points, including six two-point buckets. He made several keys baskets down the stretch, when the Magic finally abused the mismatch between him and Thad Young. Lewis took it right at Young and was able to score relatively easy on lay-ups.

JJ Redick’s stats may not look that great, but he did a fantastic job filling in for the injured Courtney Lee. He worked relentlessly on defense – as far as pure effort, he’s the hardest-working defender on the team — and fought through screens with tenacity. While Willie Green did have his best game of the series opposite Redick, it didn’t kill the Magic — and that’s all the team needed. On offense, Redick is always a weapon. Even when he didn’t score, the Sixers had to worry about him, and that helped open the offense up as a whole. While Redick probably didn’t earn himself any extra playing time in Game 6, it was an admirable job and offers more proof that the Magic’s bench isn’t as bad as advertised. And the man throws a beautiful entry pass into the post.

The Magic’s playoff crowds seem to be on a linear graph, going downward. There more empty seats in Game 5 than Game 2, and there were more empty seats in Game 2 than Game 1 (which was packed). Overall, it wasn’t a bad crowd, but the place wasn’t as rocking as it was in the first game.

We finally saw some shots start to fall for the Magic. They made four of their first six, and they started to look like the team we’ve been watching all season in the first quarter. Then again, they were still only up by one after the first quarter and continued to let the Sixers hang around throughout the half.

Once again, the Magic played a fantastic third quarter. The Magic were playing well on offense, moving the ball and creating open shots. On back-to-back possessions, the offensive motion created a wide-open 3-pointer for Rafer Alston and a catch-and-dunk for Howard. When Orlando’s offense is working like it was during that stretch, it’s one of the prettiest offenses in basketball. The Magic had some serious momentum in this quarter, stretching the lead to double-digits and putting the Sixers in an almost insurmountable hole – oh wait, nevermind.

Rafer Alston hit Marcin Gortat on a half-court pass at the end of the first half for a all-alone lay-up for Gortat. It was one of the first plays of the series where the Magic legitimately out-hustled the Sixers.

Early in the third quarter, Thad Young and Sam Dalembert had four fouls apiece. Marreese Speights didn’t see the floor. What did he do to get into Tony DiLeo’s doghouse?

You gotta love when the player you traded for in the middle of the season waves off your $118-million dollar free agent, and then the midseason acquisition takes it himself and gets rejected at the rim. That’s a good plan.

Alston didn’t have many points, but his scores were pretty. He hit a nice runner over Dalembert’s outstretched arm, another lay-up in traffic and a 3-pointer off the dribble with the shot clock winding down.

For a man who makes a living off taking it to the hole and drawing fouls, Andre Iguodala sure isnt’ a very good free-throw shooter. It’s not just one or two games — it’s been the entire series. He has a great follow-through on his mid-range jumper, yet he short-arms his foul shots.

Dwight Howard: 24 points, 24 rebounds. And most importantly, he helped secure the late lead with two huge offensive rebounds, which had more to do with effort than his athletic ability.