Stupid Mistakes End Orlando’s Comeback Bid


The Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets have made a habit of playing in close, highly contested games. Nothing changed on Friday night. Once again the two teams went down to the wire. The Magic overcame a 12-point second half deficit but couldn’t hold on, losing 99-93.

The Magic didn’t play bad in the first quarter but couldn’t contain Chris Paul. Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy voiced his displeasure over the way they defended Chris Paul, who had nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting in the opening quarter. Luckily, the Magic got 12 points and seven rebounds out of Dwight Howard and seven points out of a more aggressive Hedo Turkoglu so they trailed by just four, 28-24.  In the second quarter, the Magic tried to push the ball even more and were effective on the offensive end. The Magic even took a 44-42 lead before allowing the Hornets to explode, going on a 19-8 run to end the half and take a 61-52 lead into the break.

The Magic turned things around in the third quarter, playing much better defense. Trailing 73-61, the Magic ripped off a 19-7 run to end the quarter, virtually erasing the run the Hornets used to take command of the game before the break. The Magic had a lot of energy in the fourth quarter and appeared to take control after taking a five-point lead following two technical fouls on the Hornets. The Hornets quickly responded with seven straight points to take the lead. It was back-and-forth for the remainder of the game. With the game tied at 91, the Hornets got back-to-back jumpers from David West and Willie Green. The Magic had a couple of chances to stay in the game but followed up those two shots by the Hornets with back-to-back turnovers.  The Magic had another chance to tie down by just three but Hedo Turkoglu threw the inbounds pass away.

“I don’t have any idea how you throw an inbounds pass out of bounds to the other side,” Van Gundy said.

After the jump, you can read more thoughts, observations and quotes from the game.

Dwight Howard had 20 points and 17 rebounds but was just 4-of-12 from the free throw line. He went 8-of-12 from the field, but didn’t get nearly enough shots. Van Gundy took the blame for that.

“I was terrible tonight by the way,” Van Gundy explained. “I didn’t get Dwight the ball enough. The free throw shooting scared me, but that’s not a good enough excuse.”

The Magic simply could not guard Chris Paul in the first half. He weaved his way in and out of traffic and often set his teammates up with great looks or set them up to get the ball to another teammate for a great look. In the second half, the Magic did a much better but couldn’t contain some of the lesser known players.

The Hornets got big plays out of the likes of Willie Green, Jarrett Jack and David Anderson and hit several shots that you usually wouldn’t see fall. As the game went on these types of shots stopped falling and the Magic were able to take the lead. Of course, their improved defensive play in the second half played a role in that as well.

In the fourth quarter, the Magic left those same players open a few times and they made them pay for it again.

Green had 24 points, Jack had 13 and Anderson had 10.

Hedo Turkoglu was much more aggressive in the game, especially in the opening quarter what he twice drove to the bucket for easy baskets but he didn’t do nearly enough of it in the second half.

Van Gundy thought that Gilbert Arenas (11 points), J.J. Redick (14 points) and Turkoglu (16 points, six rebounds, five assists) played okay but went on to call Orlando’s perimeter play “mind bottling.”

Earl Clark continues to show that he could be a valuable member of the Magic rotation even after Brandon Bass returns to full health. Clark is showing a lot of confidence in his jump shooting and it really showed Friday night – he scored 14 points.

Next Up: The Magic will host the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday afternoon.

Final Thought: After the game, Van Gundy gave a very telling quote.

“We made a half ass effort so it wasn’t surprising,” Van Gundy said. “Right now if you look at the results, bottom line is that we can’t beat a good team.”

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and ESPN 1080’s Magic Insider ( Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).