3-Point contest comes early


In the end, only one player from the Magic can be in the 3-point contest this All-Star Weekend. Ryan Anderson is a pretty good pick. He is the NBA leader in 3-pointers made and 3-pointers attempted. An obvious pick.

But so would have J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson. They can hit 3-pointers too. And when the Magic start hitting 3-pointers, the avalanche is tough to stop. Very very tough to stop.

Orlando was an astounding 15 for 25 from beyond the arc, led by Ryan Anderson’s 7-for-10 performance, burying Philadelphia quickly in the first quarter and finally putting Philadelphia away with a big spurt in the fourth quarter to pull away. The Magic took a big win and climbed a game behind the 76ers for the third seed in the Eastern Conference with a 103-87 victory at Amway Center on Wednesday.

That shooting percentage was no mistake. The Magic in the two stretches where they really took control of the game moved the ball extremely well to get open shots. These 3-pointers were not contested. And that explains how the Magic got out to a 23-7 lead and never trailed in the game.

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Orlando built as much as a 17-point lead in the first half behind some absolutely superb shooting. The team simply broke down Philadelphia’s vaunted defense and shot it to death.

Eventually that lead did diminish. The 76ers got it to within six in the second quarter, before the starters returned and pushe dthe lead back out to 16 points before the half.

Philadelphia never got that close and never really threatened the lead. Yes, the 76ers went on a big run with Andre Iguodala making a bunch of shots in succession in the third quarter and Philadelphia playing with more energy and focus on both ends of the floor.

Still, Orlando never let up and never seemed to panic. The team’s lead was never quite threatened. The Magic came up with stops and shots when they needed to before burying the 76ers and pulled away.

Dwight Howard, who struggled from the floor with 8-for-15 shooting, was something of a calming presence in helping Orlando survive these rough patches. Jameer Nelson did a lot of work there too. He had 14 assists, helping facilitate that ball movement that made Orlando’s offense incredibly deadly. When the fourth quarter came along, he was ready to shoot the ball. He made five of his eight shots and ended up with 11 points.

He went on a nice scoring run in the fourth quarter that helped spark the final run that put the game away.

Philadelphia never could get over the hump and the level play of Nelson helped make sure Orlando stayed in control. That was thanks largely to a strong defensive effort that will probably get overlooked. Philadelphia did shoot 42.4 percent from the field and committed an uncharacterstic 14 turnovers.

But the offensive story was once again Ryan Anderson. Anderson scored 27 points, shooting 9 for 12 from the floor and 7 for 10 from 3-point range. That was good for a 104.2 percent effective field goal percentage. He was just bombing away 3-pointers and certainly showed he earned that spot in the shootout next Saturday.

There was, of course, one negative to consider. The bench continued to struggle and Philadelphia was able to make runs against Orlando when the second unit was in. J.J. Redick had 12 points, but needed to shoot 5 for 12 to get there. More than that, the ball movement stops when the second unit comes in. And the difference in the offense is pretty clear.

The five Magic starters all had positive plus/minus ratings. The five Magic bench players all had negative plus/minus rating. That says a lot, you think.

There were good moments. The second unit has some issues it needs to solve. But still you like seeing Redick continue to be aggressive and look for his shot. And Quentin Richardson played fantastic defense to cool down Andre Iguodala.

Good moments. But not the consistency Orlando would like to see from the bench — especially on the offensive end.

The Magic though got another solid victory. A start-to-finish effort that the team has lacked at times this season. As the team enters the doldrums of the season, continuing to get games like this will become even more important.