While most people will talk about the Los Angeles Clippers putting together one of the greatest comebacks in NBA playoff history, storming back from a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Memphis Grizzlies by the score of 99-98 on the road in Game 1 of their first round playoff series, lest everyone forget that the Orlando Magic put together a comeback of their own (albeit on a much smaller scale) in their Game 1 victory against the Indiana Pacers.
After Darren Collison made a jumper off the dribble near the left baseline to give the Pacers a seven-point lead at 77-70 with 4:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Magic went on an 11-0 run to — like the Clippers — close out the game and steal a Game 1 on the road.
At the epicenter of Orlando’s comeback was Jason Richardson.
With the score at 77-72 following a difficult floater high off the glass by Jameer Nelson off the dribble in the paint while fading away from the basket, Richardson made back-to-back three-pointers to give the Magic a lead they would never relinquish. And ironically enough, both three-point shots were generated from plays drawn up by head coach Stan Van Gundy following a timeout.
You know, the same head coach that Dwight Howard wants fired.
In any case, Van Gundy’s play designs were beautifully constructed, making use of a player that was having the most success shooting from behind the three-point line — Richardson.
On this possession, with Orlando down 77-75 in the fourth quarter and the game winding down, Van Gundy opts to set up Richardson for a three-pointer to try to regain the lead after Indiana started to take control a few minutes prior.
Nelson dribbles to the left corner while Richardson and Ryan Anderson trigger the play. Richardson runs towards to the top of the key, while Anderson sets a screen for him. As that’s happening, Nelson is waiting for Richardson to turn the corner so that he can pass him the ball if possible for a catch-and-shoot opportunity on a screen-and-curl.
This is where the beauty of Van Gundy’s play design shines through.
Notice that, while Richardson is coming around the screen with Paul George trailing him, David West is sagging off of Anderson? Instead of Richardson shooting the basketball, he very well could have dumped the ball off to Anderson instead. He would have had a wide open look at a three-point shot at the top of the key. That’s a sign of a well-designed play — options.
Instead, Richardson receives the pass from Nelson, catches the ball in rhythm, and nails a clutch three-pointer to give the lead back to the Magic.
Although Orlando is undermanned against the Pacers, they have an x-factor in Van Gundy. Yes, head coach Frank Vogel is one of the better (young) head coaches in the league, but Van Gundy’s encyclopedia of knowledge is simply more expansive than Vogel’s at this point.
That bore out in Game 1 with the utilization of Richardson in crunch time.