Superman to the rescue.
Thanks to Dwight Howard‘s game-winning putback with 4.3 seconds left in the game, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Washington Wizards by the score of 100-99. For the third Saturday in a row, Jameer Nelson tried to be the hero on the Magic’s final possession of the game but he airballed a fadeaway jumper in a 1/5 pick and roll with Howard. Luckily for Nelson, Howard was there to clean up the mess and secure the victory for Orlando. Gilbert Arenas’ attempt at a game-winner after Howard scored came up long, and that was that. The Magic were led by Howard, who had a season-high 32 points, 11 rebounds, and two blocks. Quentin Richardson continued his torrid shooting, finishing with 20 points on 12 shots. For the Wizards, it was the Arenas show as he turned back the clock and had 31 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Nick Young provided a spark off the bench for Washington, chipping in with 21 points.
The good news for Orlando is that they won. The bad news is that this game should have never been this close to begin with.
To put it simply, the Magic’s effort and energy was pathetic. Just as Orlando went through the motions against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, that’s what they did last night. Hustle stats like steals, rebounds, and block shots, which usually provide a clue as to which team is playing with more passion, were in the Wizards’ favor.
For the Magic, there’s no excuse for that. Even on a back-to-back. Orlando was up by 12 points at halftime, thanks in large part to the performances of Howard and Richardson on offense. And for whatever reason, maybe because the Magic weren’t trying and felt they could get away with it for a second night in a row, they didn’t finish the job when they had the chance.
As such, Washington was able to storm back into the game because they were the aggressor.
Arenas, for example, kept attacking the basket with reckless abandon and was able to get to the free-throw line a total of 14 times. Led by Arenas, the Wizards went on a 15-2 run in the third quarter and took the lead. For most of the evening, fans got a glimpse of “Agent Zero” of old with his mix of jumpshots and forays at the rim.
Then in the fourth quarter, Young exploded for 14 of his 21 points. Young did it all for Washington in the period, scoring in pick and rolls, off screens, and more. It was an excellent offensive display by Young and it appeared it’d be enough to overtake Orlando. Especially with Arenas continuing his onslaught on the perimeter in conjunction with Young’s efforts.
However, the Magic went on a small run to steal the game from the Wizards.
[2:40, WAS 94-91] Lewis makes layup
[2:13, WAS 95-91] Arenas makes free throw 1 of 2
[2:00, WAS 95-94] Richardson makes 26-foot three-point jumpshot (Lewis assist)
[1:30, ORL 96-95] Howard makes free throw 1 of 2
[1:30, ORL 96-95] Howard makes free throw 2 of 2
[1:15, WAS 97-96] Arenas makes 18-foot jumpshot (Blatche assist)
[0:26, ORL 98-97] Howard makes hook shot (Nelson assist)
[0:13, WAS 99-98] Arenas makes 6-foot two point shot
[0:04, ORL 100-99] Howard makes 4-foot two point shot
Excluding Nelson’s game-winning shot attempt, Orlando executed down the stretch on offense while Washington struggled to provide a rebuttal to decisively fend off the comeback.
It’s a win for the Magic, but they didn’t deserve it.