No 10-game winning streak.
The New Orleans Hornets were able to defeat the Orlando Magic in overtime by the score of 92-89 in a defensive slugfest that saw both teams struggle to generate offense consistently throughout the game. The Hornets were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. The players that stood out the most for New Orleans were Marcus Thornton and Chris Paul. Thornton was able to provide a spark off the bench for the Hornets, hitting big shots in crunch-time while finishing with 22 points and nine rebounds. Paul was a magician in the pick and roll for New Orleans, causing headaches for the Magic’s defense all night long as he piled up 12 points, 13 rebounds, and five rebounds. Dwight Howard led the way for Orlando with 29 points, 20 rebounds, and two blocks — it was the third 20-20 game for the big fella this season. Jason Richardson contributed with 21 points and seven rebounds but more importantly, displayed his affinity for the dramatic as he connected on two three-pointers late in the fourth quarter that allowed the Magic to force the game into overtime courtesy of Hedo Turkoglu‘s game-tying three-point shot with 6.9 seconds remaining in the period. Yes, Turkoglu was clutch with the game on the line for Orlando but it wasn’t enough.
The Hornets were able to win because they were physical with the Magic and didn’t make things easy for them on offense, especially the perimeter players like Jameer Nelson that struggled to get anything going for themselves. Whether it was Paul, Thornton or whoever else, New Orleans did an excellent job of disrupting Orlando’s flow offensively by playing with active hands and disrupting passing lanes. Nelson nor Turkoglu were able to do much of anything in the pick and roll, which really limited the Magic throughout the evening.
Howard did the best he could to carry Orlando on offense. From the opening tip until the final buzzer, Howard played with tremendous energy on both ends of the floor. Granted, Emeka Okafor had one of his better games against Howard in his career. But Howard did whatever he wanted when matched up against Okafor, particularly in 4-out/1-in offensive sets where he was able to mix in a healthy diet of righty hooks, lefty hooks, and mid-range jumpers during the night. It’s important to note, however, Howard’s lack of involvement in pick and rolls.
That was a key in the game for the Hornets, more than anything else.
As a result, for the first time in a while, there was a lack of balance offensively for the Magic. Three players scored in double-figures. Ryan Anderson, with 14 points, was the other player alongside Howard and Richardson.
Which is why it’s a little surprising that head coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t go with Anderson down the stretch for Orlando, particularly in overtime, when the offense needed to generate points on the perimeter.
Yes, it was the combination of Nelson-Redick-Richardson-Bass-Howard that led the comeback for the Magic in the fourth quarter but still. There will be those that criticize Nelson for missing shots in crunch-time but he’s produced in the past. There will be those that wonder why Turkoglu wasn’t on the court in overtime but his lackadaisical defense was a reason.
There are a few things to take away from this loss.
Orlando should be given credit for fighting until the very end and never giving up, especially when things looked bleak in the fourth quarter when they were trailing by seven points at 79-72 with 1:36 left in regulation.
Instead, Richardson and Turkoglu proved why they’re killer in the clutch.
Two threes by Richardson and another three by Turkoglu showed that they can be relied upon down the stretch in games when the Magic need a bucket or two. That’s important to note because that’s one of the reasons that general manager Otis Smith acquired them in the trades. To be crunch-time players. On paper, this is a game Orlando should have won but it should be encouraging for Magic fans to see the team respond to adversity. The Magic didn’t wilt but instead, they rose above and nearly stole a game on the road against the Hornets.
It’s a learning tool for Van Gundy, more than anything else.
Orlando was bound to have an outing where some players would have an off-night and this was it. When J.J. Redick, for example, is missing wide-open three-pointers, that’s a sign. When the Magic, as a team, attempt only 10 free throws in an overtime game, that’s a sign. When Howard picks up a dubious technical foul, that’s a sign.