AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz
With a rookie head coach (Jacque Vaughn) and 10 new faces on the roster, Magic fans have been tempted to use the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname early in the season.
The original “Heart and Hustle” team in the 1999-2000 season, also led by a rookie head coach (Doc Rivers) and a ragtag group of players (many of them inexperienced or unknown), won over a Magic fan base still dealing with the after-effects of the departures of two franchise players — Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.
Led by Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace, the “Heart and Hustle” team earned their nickname by playing hard every night, overachieving, and competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference until the final week of the regular season. A loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second-to-last game of the regular season derailed their playoff hopes, as the Bucks used that game as a springboard to ultimately clinch the No. 8 seed in the East.
It’s way too early to give the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname to this season’s iteration of the Orlando Magic but with each passing game, the temptation grows.
It’s ironic that as things stand now, the Magic lost to the original architect of the “Heart and Hustle” team, the aforementioned Rivers who is the current head coach of the Boston Celtics, in a thrilling game that went down to the wire.
Trailing 58-48 at halftime, Orlando — led by Jameer Nelson — stormed back in the third quarter, using runs of 11-3 and 8-0 to claw back into the game. In the period, Nelson caught fire offensively, torching the Celtics’ defense. Nelson scored in a variety of ways, whether it was off the dribble, in pick-and-rolls, or even in transition.
Thanks to a vintage quarter from Nelson (12 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor), what once was a 10-point deficit turned into a 82-80 lead for the Magic heading into the fourth quarter. From there, Orlando and Boston went back-and-forth in the period, exchanging leads until the score was tied at 102 with 1:21 left. The Magic and Celtics each had chances to win the game in regulation down the stretch, but neither team was able to take advantage, thus sending the game into overtime.
After trailing 106-104 in the opening moments of the extra period, Boston used a 12-4 run to come away with the 116-110 victory.
Although Orlando lost, they deserve credit for never giving up and fighting back despite being down for most of the night. That’s been a running theme for the Magic all season and if the trend continues, with some of those losses turning into victories, maybe then the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname will catch on.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Rajon Rondo had a near triple-double, finishing with 15 points, 16 assists, nine rebounds, and two steals. Rondo has now had at least 10 assists in 37 consecutive games (tying John Stockton for the NBA record).
Josh McRoberts proved to be a surprising contributor (five points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks), coming off the bench for Orlando and being used in an effective small-ball lineup by Vaughn. The 14 rebounds were a career-high.
That Was … Silly
Rondo has been known to pad his assist totals. Such was the case against the Magic, where on one transition opportunity in the fourth quarter, Rondo passed up a wide open layup to try to get a cheap assist.