Magic’s Mistakes Come at the Wrong Time, Streak Ends


Hedo Turkoglu had set up everything almost perfectly. He drained a 3-pointer at the end of regulation after Dwight Howard kicked it to the corner to JJ Redick who found Turkoglu for a 3-pointer to force overtime.

The Hornets fouled Howard with 23 seconds left after Turkoglu’s fade-away jumper over Emeka Okafor fell short and Howard got in position for the offensive foul. Orlando had another chance to steal a win on the road.

Turkoglu used a Howard screen to get an open look with 12 seconds left, but missed again. Howard was fouled as he went for the rebound.

So a one-point game and Howard on the line for two. Dwight, despite a 29-point, 20-rebound effort, could not make the big shots when they counted. He was 3 for 5 when he stepped to the line. He was 3 for 7 when he stepped off it.

Howard’s two missed free throws with eight seconds left did not officially seal Orlando’s fate, but it was a sign of a sloppy 92-89 overtime loss to New Orleans on Wednesday night, snapping Orlando’s franchise-best nine-game winning streak.

For a team that was rolling thanks to some extremely balanced scoring, tonight was an offensive night to forget. The Magic had only three players in double figures — Howard, Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson. As a team, Orlando shot only 39.1 percent and needed all 12 of its 3-pointers to stay in this game.

The offense was a problem all evening as New Orleans did a good job keeping Orlando out of the paint and settling for jumpers. The team was pretty stagnant all game long and settling for the first good look it could find.

Orlando had 19 assists on 36 field goals, showing both how important assists are to the success of this team and how few shots were made and the potential that this team could have done more.

Even with 12 3-pointers, the Magic posted a 45.7 percent effective field goal percentage and had a 94.7 offensive rating. Adding more fuel to the poor offensive fire, Orlando shot only 10 free throws and seven attempts came from Howard.

Those are signs the team was not looking to attack the basket like it usually does and settling for jumpers.

Making things even more problematic for Orlando was some mental mistakes that cost the team some much-needed points. Howard picked up a technical foul late in the fourth quarter and that one point eventually mattered.

It was yet another big game for Dwight Howard where everyone seemed to be standing and watching. This is a troubling trend as it should be a good thing when Howard can dominate like he did tonight.

Howard had his way with Emeka Okafor and David West inside early in the game. He scored 13 points in the first quarter and six of Orlando’s eight points in overtime (and many are probably wishing it were at least seven to get that tie).

When Howard goes to work early, it seems like the team struggles offensively. It is a difficult thing to figure out.

Tonight might have been a case of players just not able to make shots.

Jameer Nelson did a very good job on Chris Paul late in the game — Paul shot 5 for 12 and had 13 assists — and dished out 10 assists, but shot only one for nine and was short-arming 3-pointers all night. JJ Redick was 2 for 11, including a wayward 3-pointer to try and tie the game at the end. Hedo Turkoglu was 2 for 10 and Brandon Bass was an uncharacteristic 3 for 13.

Together those four players finished 8 for 43 and 3 for 14 from beyond the arc.

Looking for a positive sign from this game? Believe it or not there are a few.

The Magic once again showed a lot of fight in this game. They trailed by seven with about a minute and a half left and looked pretty dead. But Jason Richardson hit two 3-pointers in the final minute and a half and almost single-handedly brought the Magic back into the game.

It also might have been the best defensive game since the trades.

New Orleans had a couple stretches where they played extremely efficient offense and looked more energized and willing to attack the basket. But the numbers do not lie. The Hornets shot 43.7 percent for the game, 5 for 18 from beyond the arc and scored only 14 points in the fourth quarter.

There is something to be encouraged about there. But Paul had moments of sheer brilliance where the Magic were just too scared of him on the pick and roll and he was able to find Emeka Okafor (18 points, 14 rebounds) for some easy baskets and even an aggressive and attacking Marcus Thornton (22 points, nine rebounds).

These positives are likely little solace for a team that expects a win every night. In the end, you can likely claim the team will come out better from losing and that might be the only way to learn some of the lessons it needed. You might be able to chalk it up to a bad shooting night.

But obviously there is still a lot for this team to continue to work and grow on.