“The third quarter was ridiculous professional basketball.”
Head coach Stan Van Gundy uttered those words in his press conference following the Orlando Magic‘s loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, in which they blew an 18-point lead in the third quarter and lost by 10 points. Against the Toronto Raptors, the Magic — no offense to their opponent — played pathetic basketball for four quarters and were defeated by the score of 110-106. By all means, the Raptors deserved to win the game because they played with excellent energy and effort, and performed as if their lives depended on the end result. Toronto was led by DeMar DeRozan, who had a career-high 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds. Andrea Bargnani finished with 27 points. Sonny Weems was the hero in the game, hitting a go-ahead three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left to put the Raptors up by three points. The Magic tried to tie the ballgame and after calling a timeout for being unable to put the ball in play, Mickael Pietrus‘ inbounds pass on the second try was stolen by Jose Calderon and that was game, set, match.
Not sure where to start.
Three players for Orlando showed up to play.
Jameer Nelson, someone that has torched the Raptors in the past, had 23 points and eight assists. Dwight Howard finished with 25 points, eights rebounds, and five blocks. Pietrus, after being reinserted in the rotation, chipped in with 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from three-point range. That’s it. And the only negative from Howard was his inability to hit free-throws. Thing is, that hasn’t stopped the Magic from winning games in the past so that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Disappointing? Yes. Surprising? No.
But boy, the rest of Orlando’s roster looked bad or worse. Vince Carter, for whatever reason, returned to settling for jumpshots. Brandon Bass, despite playing good defense on Bargnani when he was assigned to him, wasn’t able to make much of an impact offensively as he had in games prior to this one. Quentin Richardson was able to make a few threes while Toronto was playing a zone defense, but that was about it for his contributions.
J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon, and Marcin Gortat combined for two points off the bench.
And Rashard Lewis.
Bargnani owned Lewis (dunked on him twice). That sentence alone is cringe-worthy. Bargnani had his way so much with Lewis that Van Gundy’s hand was forced, and he elected to play Bass for nearly the entire fourth quarter. For defensive purposes. If that doesn’t speak volumes as to how poorly Lewis has been performing in the regular season, not sure what does. Lewis has been a shell of himself since the preseason, and it’s becoming tougher to justify starting him at power forward.
That’s how bad it’s been for Lewis.
The end of the third quarter, more or less, encapsulated the performances of the Raptors and Magic.
At the 2:35 mark in the period and with the shot-clock winding down, Calderon was able to make a three-pointer from Canada with Nelson’s hand in his face. On the next possession, Amir Johnson was able to get a dunk after Julian Wright dribble penetrated into the lane. A few possessions later, after Orlando was able to force a missed shot from Calderon, Redick made a lazy outlet pass after securing the rebound, Wright stole the basketball, and made the layup. Following that sequence and with the period coming to a close, Calderon drove to the paint but had his layup attempt blocked by Howard. No matter. Johnson came flying in for the offensive rebound and even though he missed the putback, DeRozan was there right after him to make the layup after all that. Kudos to Toronto.
The only good thing that comes away from this loss for the Magic is that they fly up to Newark to face off against the New Jersey Nets on a back-to-back. This will allow Orlando to, hopefully, bounce back with a win but given the way the players have been performing lately, nothing is a guarantee.
In a nutshell, the Magic played lazy and little-to-no defense for almost the entire 48 minutes against the Raptors. Only because Orlando is the more talented team were they able to almost steal this game from Toronto. Pietrus was able to make a game-tying three off an offensive rebound with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
However, on the ensuing possession, the Raptors ran down the clock and Weems was able to make a wide-open three-pointer off a pass from Jarrett Jack in a 1/4 pick and roll with Bargnani.
Great execution by Toronto. That’s something that could have been said all night.