The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 96-89, extending their winning streak to a season-high five games. Despite playing one of their worst games of the regular season, the Magic were able to get their act together in the late stages of the fourth quarter, pulling away from the Bobcats after being tied at 67 apiece entering the period. Orlando played with little energy and effort in the first three quarters, which made for some unsightly basketball at times but with Charlotte being a bad team, it didn’t matter. The Magic made enough plays in the final period and got the win. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard put up a game-high 25 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Jameer Nelson finished with 17 points and four assists. Hedo Turkoglu chipped in with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Ryan Anderson had 13 points and three steals. Von Wafer came off the bench and gave the Magic a lift, finishing with 13 points. Let’s get right to business because, to be honest, describing the first 42 minutes of the game would be insulting. After sleepwalking for most of the night, Orlando put together a five minute stretch (from the 5:37 mark in the fourth quarter up until there were 42 seconds left in regulation) that won them the ballgame.
Leading by two points at 74-72 with less than six minutes remaining in the game, Wafer made a three-pointer to give the Magic some breathing room against the Bobcats. Orlando ran a 4-out/1-in offensive set for Howard, in which he got double-teamed on the left block, which coerced him to kick the basketball out to Nelson on the perimeter, and Nelson swung the ball to Wafer for a wide-open three-point shot on the right wing.
On the next possession, after Gerald Henderson made a mid-range jumper, the Magic ran a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard at the top of the key. Nelson dribble penetrated into the lane, then kicked it out to Turkoglu for a wide-open three-pointer on the left wing. At this point, it was clear that Orlando was done fooling around after showing little to no desire to try for most of the game against Charlotte. It showed in the execution during crunch time.
A few possessions later, Turkoglu nailed a difficult fallaway jumper off the dribble with Henderson draped all over him defensively. These are the type of plays which further prove that the Magic have a go-to scorer again in Turkoglu because there’s no one else on the roster that can replicate that type of shot, especially against a defender of Henderson’s caliber.
After a Henderson free-throw line extended jumper off a screen-and-curl cut Orlando’s lead to two points at 83-81, Ryan Anderson was able to respond with a three-pointer in the right corner. Anderson struggled to get his shot going against the Bobcats but it didn’t show on that play, as the Magic ran a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard which created the scoring opportunity for Anderson.
Following a layup from Tyrus Thomas, Orlando went with the 1/5 pick-and-roll yet again with Nelson and Howard. This time, Nelson was able to get to the rim for a layup off the dribble.
Ultimately, a botched possession by Charlotte on the next play, in which D.J. Augustin made an errant pass to Kemba Walker along the three-point line, which forced Walker to try to save the basketball from going out-of-bounds near mid-court and prompted him to turn it over, finished them off. Turkoglu got a hold of the loose ball, stormed down the court, got fouled on his layup attempt, and he made both free-throw attempts to give the Magic a seven-point lead.
Extra-curriculars took place for the next 30 seconds or so, but Orlando pretty much had things wrapped up on Turkoglu’s steal.
It wasn’t an impressive win for the Magic but it was a win nevertheless. It should be noted that Wafer and Glen Davis each gave Orlando a nice boost coming off the bench. For Wafer, he took advantage of a slow-footed Matt Carroll (and no Bismack Biyombo to alter shots in the paint) to make a few layups off the dribble, mixing in a few jumpers too for good measure. Wafer’s good play, coupled with Redick’s struggles on offense, influenced head coach Stan Van Gundy’s decision to grant Wafer minutes in crunch time. Davis, on the other hand, didn’t have a good game when looking at the box score but he left everything on the floor when he got minutes, looking like a combination of Darrell Armstrong and Bo Outlaw from the Heart and Hustle era — diving on the floor, fighting for rebounds, and playing hard-nosed defense.
Lastly, even though Howard played relatively well on offense, defensively he was lacking at times. Whether he wasn’t rotating quick enough on defense or providing weak-side help when needed, just as a few examples, Howard wasn’t that overwhelming force that he usually is. This isn’t to say that Howard was bad on the defensive side of the ball because he wasn’t, as Derrick Brown rudely found out on a layup attempt in the early goings of the fourth quarter. But there’s a reason that the Magic aren’t as good defensively as they should be, and it’s because Howard isn’t at the top of his game for whatever reason.
Howard’s defense, particularly his intensity, is something to keep an eye on.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.