Magic Falter Down Stretch, Fall to Grizzles

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For the second consecutive game, the Magic blew a 16-point lead against one of the hottest teams in the league. Unfortunately for the Magic, they couldn’t hold on this time. Memphis scored the game’s final seven points and won 99-94 to extend their home-winning streak to 11 games. Zach Randolph had 23 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Grizzlies. Dwight Howard had 27 points, 15 rebounds and 6 blocks for the Magic.

The Orlando Magic started the game with a bang. Vince Carter drove to the hole, went baseline and dunked it on Orlando’s opening possession. The Magic shot the ball well (10-of-18) and did a lot of good things but the same turnover issues that have had all year long hurt the Magic again. They limited the Grizzlies to just 41.7% shooting (10-of-24,) but they turned the ball over eight times allowing the Grizzlies to score six points off of those turnovers and ruining several promising possessions on offense. Orlando’s defense was excellent – they really got into the passing lanes and forced turnovers themselves. The Magic led 23-22 after one.

The second quarter got off to a very promising start for the Magic. They scored the first 10 points of the quarter and went on a 21-6 run to give them a 44-28 lead. Then, the Grizzlies took over. They attacked the basket and repeatedly drew fouls. They ended the quarter on a 24-6 run capped by a 60 foot heave by Zach Randolph to end the quarter and give Memphis a 52-50 halftime lead.

Magic assistant coach Bob Beyer was interviewed at the half and said that the staff liked Orlando’s defense for the first 15 or so minutes of the game but it fell apart after that. Beyer said Orlando’s 14 turnovers and Memphis’ 14 fast break points is what allowed Memphis to come back.

The third quarter had a very promising start. Carter drove a few times and made big plays on two of their first three possessions. He drove and kicked it out to Jameer Nelson who made a three-pointer and then drove to the hoop and dunked – vintage Vince Carter. The Magic played a solid quarter and after Matt Barnes made a great hustle play, he got the ball to Rashard Lewis, who hit his second consecutive three-pointer and gave Orlando a 79-73 edge, but the Magic could not stop Zach Randolph. He hit two easy buckets to end the quarter, cutting the lead to 79-77.

Orlando increased their lead to 84-77 at the start of the fourth quarter. Orlando went colt and the Grizzlies score the next eight points. Orlando trailed by three with just 3:09 to go, but Rashard Lewis was fouled shooting a three-pointer and tied the game. Jameer Nelson’s driving layup with 1:51 to go gave Orlando the lead, but they did not score again. Zach Randolph tipped in a miss and Rudy Gay hit a jumper that gave the Grizzlies the lead. Trailing by 2, Vince Carter took an ill-advised three-pointer that did not fall.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy offered a simple explanation for the last shot.

"“We screwed up the play.”"

The Grizzlies scored the game’s final seven points to earn a 99-94 win.

NBA

The Magic lost to a good team, who is excellent at home, but this is still a very disappointing loss. Van Gundy explained that the Magic just didn’t make as many plays as the Grizzlies did.

"“It was a good basketball game but they made more plays than we did on both ends of the floor.”"

Early in the game, Orlando’s defense looked fantastic. Their guards were getting into the passing game and forcing turnovers and they held the Grizzlies to just 41.7% shooting in the first half.

About halfway through the second quarter, the Magic defense began to fall apart. They had no answer for Zach Randolph. Although Randolph had a lot of trouble heading out to the perimeter to defend Rashard Lewis (Lewis had 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting and was 4-of-8 from three), no one could defend Randolph. It was Lewis’ turn for much of the game and he could not successfully box out Randolph – 9 of Randolph’s 19 rebounds were offensive. The Magic started the fourth quarter with Brandon Bass in the game in an attempt to defend Randolph, but he didn’t have much success either. Lewis came back in with 8:03 to play after a Bass turnover, but he continued to struggle. The Magic then turned to Marcin Gortat and slid Lewis to the three on defense while alternating Matt Barnes in for Gortat on offense. Eventually, the Magic turned to Howard and he forced a miss from Randolph, but on the next possession, Howard let Randolph go right by him for a tip-in that tied the game.

Dwight Howard was very effective on offense. He shot 9-of-14 from the field and scored 27 points. The most impressive part of the night was his free throw shooting. Howard went 9-of-11 from the line and is now 38-of-51 from the charity stripe over his last four games. Howard was a force on defense – he blocked six shots and altered several others, but the Grizz still had 48 points in the paint. A few times, Howard left his man to attempt to block a shot and the Magic paid for it on the glass.

Grizzlies Center Marc Gasol got himself to the free throw line 13 times, scored 19 points, grabbed 8 boards and blocked 3 shots.

Orlando’s backcourt was not nearly as good as it was Saturday night. Vince Carter showed some flashes – he often drove and had two big dunks, but Carter let the Magic down down the stretch. He must a couple of big shots and took a very ill-advised three-point attempt with the Magic down two. Van Gundy said that the play broke down and Carter probably did not have room to get to the hoop, but launching that shot still wasn’t his best option.

Nelson remains fearless late games as evidenced by his driving layup that gave the Magic the lead with under two minutes remaining, but other than that, he had a night to forget. Nelson scored 11 points and grabbed 4 rebounds but he had just a single assists and turned the ball over 6 times.

The bench didn’t produce like it has lately. Jason Williams had 8 points and 4 assists, but took a few bad three-pointers. J.J. Redick came in and shot the ball extremely well – he was 4-of-6 from the field (3-of-4 from downtown) and had 11 points, but he was injured in the second half and did not score.

Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat failed to score.

Game Notes:

  • Strangely, the Magic were called 30 fouls and had just 18 free throw attempts while Memphis was called for just 16 fouls and shot 26 free throws.
  • Turnovers continued to plague the Magic – they had 19.
  • The Grizzlies had 18 turnovers.
  • The Grizzlies won the battle of the boards 45 to 37.

Next: The Magic will get some rest before hosting the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. The season series is 1-1 with each team winning on the opponent’s home floor.

Final Thought: A 1-1 road trip against two very good home teams isn’t bad, but it’s tough to lose when you have a 16-point lead.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)