Almost doesn’t count, but you wish it did


Glen Davis went probably to the one place he and the Orlando Magic wanted to go after his fadeaway jumper at the buzzer fell off the front of the rim. Davis was falling and flailing back, caught by Ish Smith and the seats of the Magic bench.

After 53 minutes for the Magic, 41 minutes from Davis, 43 from Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson and 40 from Hedo Turkoglu, an exhausted Magic team had erased a 19-point deficit, tied the game, forced it to overtime, tied it again and had one last chance to extend the game one more time. Who knows if the Magic would be able to survive another five minutes.

This team has heart. It finally played a second half and most of the first half with the energy it will need to make this series a little longer and pull off the upset. Orlando just could not sustain it long enough.

One play can be enough to defeat you.

That one play was a critical possession that saw George Hill drive toward the hoop and Jameer Nelson be just a hair late to recover. He was whistled for a foul, although you could barely hear it with the noise level in Amway Center at the time. Hill calmly sank both free throws. And when the Magic got the ball back with 2.2 seconds left, the play they drew up got Davis open on the left side of the floor and gave him the time (and space) to get off a final heave. It fell short and Indiana will head back to the Hoosier State with a 3-1 series lead after a 101-99 overtime victory at Amway Center on Saturday.

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You could never fault the fight in the Magic after a crazed comeback. But another opportunity was lost and time is running out on the season.

“Almost doesn’t count,” Glen Davis said. “If we played like that the whole series, we might be up right now. Every loose ball we were on. Every box out. Every defensive possession. I haven’t felt that way since the first game. There was a sense of urgency. It was our backs against the wall and we fought really really extremely hard. That’s playoff basketball. That’s it.”

The Magic played with the desperation that a team on the ropes needs to play with.

Glen Davis did fantastic work on the pick and roll. Indiana left him open time and time again and Orlando continued to go to the well. The momentum of one good shot after another fed into the defense and Indiana suddenly looked tight and unable to get off a good shot. It looked like Game One in just about every way.

Except for the fact the Magic had to erase a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit.

Orlando found its rhythm on those pick and rolls and went on a 14-0 run and closed the game on a 26-7 run. It needed to be 28-7 obviously. Jameer Nelson drew separation on the final possession of the game but his turnaround jumper was also no good. The team captain and playmaker did not have that one final push to get the win and tie the series.

Nelson had 11 assists but shot only 4 for 15 from the floor and scored 12 points. His playmaking was critical down the stretch. Glen Davis had 24 points and 11 rebounds. Jason Richardson had 25 points on 9-for-18 shooting. J.J. Redick struggled to hit shots — 10 points, on 2-for-9 shooting — but had seven assists in working the pick and roll with Davis.

“When you got your back against the wall and you have nowhere to turn except the ones beside you, you feed off that,” Davis said. “And then that energy starts going everywhere. We’ve got to live by out motto. We all we got at the end of the day. We have to make sure we use that energy to make sure we execute and do what we have to do on each side of the ball.”

Certainly Orlando approached the game like it was imperative that they win it. The effort was there from the start as it was (finally) Orlando getting to the hot start. That quickly dissipated deep into the second quarter as the Magic went nearly nine minutes without a field goal, seeing a 16-10 advantage turn into a 34-25 deficit. The Pacers took control as the Magic could do nothing offensively except get fouled — shooting 14 for 16 from the foul line in the quarter.

In the third quarter, David West scored 12 of his 26 points, making six of his nine shots. Neither Ryan Anderson nor Earl Clark could stop him as he posted up and found his way to the basket. Orlando’s double teams were coming late. This looked like the team that got dominated in Games Two and Three.

But the Magic are a resilient bunch. They continue to defy odds and continue to fight. That was not enough tonight despite the hard fight that the team gave. Stan Van Gundy said he was proud of the way his team played and the way they kept fighting.

There is no doubting Orlando’s heart right now.

“It’s tough for me right now because I’m frustrated,” Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s just the way I am. It’s tough for me to get up here and be real positive. I’m really proud of our guys and what they gave and what they’ve been given. I thought we fought hard. We had some really really bad stretches in that game, but we kept coming and kept coming and we fought hard. You’re not going to get a lot of bad from me today.”

Now all the Magic can do is fight to see another day, as Davis said. They have to show the fight that they showed in the fourth quarter in the comeback and chip away and chip away, fighting their way back into the game.

“Tonight, we played the way we wanted to play. They just hit some big shots,” Ryan Anderson said. “You can’t ask for more from this team.”

Fighting your way back into a series is much more difficult though.