With both teams playing for the third time in 10 days, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks by the score of 93-90. Ryan Anderson made a go-ahead three-pointer with 18.1 seconds left in the game, Brandon Jennings turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, Jameer Nelson made two free-throws shortly thereafter, the Bucks failed to tie things up after that, and that was your ballgame. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard played relatively well, finishing with a game-high 28 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field (including 10-of-14 from the free-throw line), 16 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Jameer Nelson chipped in with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting from the field, five assists, and three rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu contributed with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, four rebounds, and three assists. Glen Davis had 12 points and six rebounds, while J.J. Redick had 11 points and three rebounds. Milwaukee was also led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Ersan Ilyasova (15 points and 15 rebounds) and Larry Sanders (13 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals) were the bright spots for the Bucks.
In all three games, Milwaukee was beating Orlando heading into the fourth quarter. In all three games, the Bucks have lost. This time around, the Magic didn’t need to put together a big comeback to win the game.
Instead, it was a back-and-forth affair in the final period.
Trailing 70-67 at the start of the quarter, Orlando went on an 8-0 run to swing the game in their favor. Howard made two free-throws after he got fouled on a put-back attempt after securing an offensive rebound, Davis made a midrange jumper off of a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Chris Duhon and Howard, DeAndre Liggins (making his first appearance in a game this season) also made two free-throws after getting fouled in transition going up for a layup, then Howard got a dunk following a hi-lo pass from Davis.
Head coach Scott Skiles took a timeout and it seemed like the Magic were in firm control of the game. That wasn’t the case, as Milwaukee responded with an 8-0 run of their own. Jennings made a layup, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Delfino made back-to-back three-pointers, and head coach Stan Van Gundy was forced to take a timeout of his own after Orlando’s lead quickly evaporated.
From there, the Magic and Bucks would exchange baskets until the score was 90-88 in favor of the home team. That’s when the final lead change of the game would occur.
With 20.9 seconds left in the game, Redick missed a floater off the dribble near the right baseline. For whatever reason, Ilyasova — perhaps trying to tip the basketball to a teammate — deflected the ball, which allowed Nelson to secure the offensive rebound. From there, Nelson kicked it out to a wide-open Anderson at the top of the key. Anderson was able to make the three-point shot, which gave Orlando the lead with the score at 91-90.
However, the Magic weren’t out of the woods yet. Milwaukee had a chance to respond and take the lead with a made basket.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, on the ensuing possession, Jennings turned the basketball over as he dribble penetrated into the lane. Nelson poked the ball away, Jennings tried to recover it with Turkoglu also fighting for control. Ultimately, though, the basketball went off of Jennings’ leg, which meant it was Orlando’s possession.
Nelson made two free-throws after getting intentionally fouled, Milwaukee was unable to tie the game, and that was that.
With the regular season halfway done, the Magic find themselves with a record of 21-12, which is third-best in the Eastern Conference. Considering the circumstances, it’s somewhat of a miracle that Orlando is currently in the position they’re in right now. Howard’s future is still in doubt, the lockout-shortened schedule has allowed for little to no practice time, and the team has been struck by a rash of injuries up to this point. Yet here the Magic are.
The problem is, no matter how good Orlando has looked at times, they’re still a rung below the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls in the East. The roster, as currently constructed, is not in a position to compete for a championship. The question is whether or not the Magic go for broke at the trade deadline and either acquire a player or two, or make the decision to trade Howard.
The clock is ticking.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.