Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The Magic dropped an infuriating game to the Mavericks on Friday, 100-98. Despite having control for the better part of the contest, the Magic unraveled in the fourth quarter and missed a couple looks at the buzzer to seal it for the Mavericks.
It seemed for most of the game that the story would be Jameer Nelson’s continued resurgence, as his aggression allowed him to exploit defensive lapses all night. Had the Magic pulled the game out, fans would almost certainly be pointing to a third quarter sequence in which Jameer collected back to back offensive rebounds and finished the play with a driving left-handed layup as the emblematic moment of the contest. Instead, it serves to make clear exactly how much the Magic let slip away.
Through the first half, the Magic looked balanced and assertive,if not exactly spectacular. They worked the ball through Dwight Howard in the post, while J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, and Hedo Turkoglu each took a hand spurring small runs. Though the Mavericks answered Orlando’s 12-point run in the first with a reciprocal run in the second, the half saw the Magic leading 55-46 and feeling good.
Orlando’s strong play extended into the second half and Nelson turned a solid effort into an outstanding one with his play in the third. The Mavericks more or less kept pace but through the first three quarters, they looked every bit the team playing on a second consecutive night. Dallas mostly kept pace by hitting just enough mid-range jumpers but despite Dirk Nowitzki’s steady scoring, the team seemed uninspired.
All that changed in the fourth quarter. Hedo Turkoglu began the quarter playing aggressively and effectively, but soon began pressing with his decision-making and committing a series of hard-to-explain turnovers. The rest of the team followed suit and before long, the game was close enough that the Magic were reverting to form and trying to match the frenetic feel of the game with a series of long threes rather than doing the attacking that had put them in command of the game earlier.
Jason Terry spurred the Mavericks comeback and the Magic struggled to hold Nowitzki at bay through the final period. In the end, the Magic seemed unwilling to assert themselves at either end and let the Mavericks make just their second fourth-quarter comeback of the season.
It’s a little difficult to take away a silver lining from this game, as the team seemed to depart from the basketball its fans yearn for and revert to the puzzling passivity that have marked the season’s most frustrating moments. Fans often talk about the Magic’s over-reliance on three-point shooting, but Friday’s performance showed that the problems go much deeper. It’s not the shots themselves so much as the way they’re found and the Magic seemed to relinquish their command of the game while trying to stay afloat with momentum-swinging shots.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Jason Terry. Dirk Nowitzki had a strong but fairly quiet scoring night, while Terry’s explosive fourth quarter put the Magic on their heels and knocked them out of their comfort zone.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Let’s give this to Hedo Turkoglu, who, despite playing aggressively and intelligently for most of the game, was the poster boy for the Magic’s meltdown, lowlighting the loss with fourth quarter turnovers and lazy shot selection.
While Dwight Howard didn’t visibly dominate the game’s action, he did finish with a commanding 15 rebounds and the Magic’s ability to work through him gave the Mavericks a lot of trouble for most of the game.