SVG breaks up tensions after Q-Rich's double-palmed retaliation (Sam Sharpe, US Presswire)
He lacked defensive edge some say. Others would say the team has lost its "tough" mentality. While Barnes can be a lot of hot air occasionally, there is no doubting that could explain the way the Magic have listed lazily through the end of the season. So maybe Quentin Richardson made up for some of that in finally getting the Magic to play hard.
For whatever reason, Richardson took exception to something second-year player Gerald Henderson did in the middle of the fourth quarter. Richardson stuck a finger in Henderson's face and, as the two drew closer, Richardson shoved Henderson away with two open palms to the face area. A small scuffle broke out and Richardson was sent to the locker room, but it might have just been the wake-up call the Magic needed.
If the latter half of the fourth quarter and overtime of Wednesday's 111-102 win over the Bobcats is any indication, the Magic should be fine for the playoffs.
What the team displayed in that stage of the game is the type of defense Stan Van Gundy and the fans have come to expect. It was followed by the kind of offense the team will need once the postseason arrives.
Orlando held Charlotte to 19 points in the final quarter. This after the Bobcats scored the first four points of the period to take a 10-point lead. A Stan Van Gundy timeout, followed immediately by an 8-0 run, seemed to spark the Magic out of their recent malaise and into playoff mode.
The way the Magic played for most of the fourth quarter and overtime is certainly how the team will need to play. The Magic could not resist making things interesting late though. They held a five-point lead with 90 seconds to play. Jameer Nelson, who showed more than flashes of play similar to the first round of last year's playoffs, knifed his way easily through the defense on the pick and roll. Twice he found Hedo Turkoglu open for three to put the game away, and twice he missed.
Orlando had no answer for Gerald Henderson with Gilbert Arenas stepping in for Jason Richardson, who missed the game with tendinitis in his knee. Henderson scored 32 points on 22 shots (a 63.8 percent true shooting percentage). It was actually Kwame Brown who made a big difference in Charlotte's comeback to force overtime late. Brown hit a baseline jumper -- an ugly, flat shot that burrowed its way into the hoop -- and then picked up a Howard block of Henderson and kicked it out to an open D.J. Augustin to tie the game.
Augustin continued to make Magic fans sweat when he picked Nelson's pocket and drove all the way to the other end of the floor, missing his layup at the buzzer. Orlando's offense went into kill mode in the overtime though, suffocating Charlotte defensively and running the pick and roll to perfection. The Magic outscored the Bobcats 15-6 in the overtime period, ending it early with a quick barrage to start the period.
The strong play at the end (yes, they flipped the switch in this one and got away with it) hid the fact the Bobcats were in control for much of the game. Stan Van Gundy admitted afterwards he was going away from Dwight Howard to get other players going offensively. Howard scored only 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, taking nine field goals and seven free throw attempts, as Van Gundy tried to reduce his minutes. His minutes should be reduced even more after he picked up his 18th technical foul and a second one-game suspension after rolling the ball into the crowd away from referee Violet Palmer following a 10-second free throw violation (I counted eight, by the way).
Orlando was largely playing from behind because of a lackadaisical defensive effort. Dante Cunningham (16 points and 10 rebounds) was scoring at a high rate in the first half and Boris Diaw was pacing Charlotte too, scoring nine of his 17 points in the third quarter. The Bobcats were above 50 percent shooting for most of the game.
Gilbert Arenas, playing his best offensive game in a Magic uniform, helped keep the Magic in it with 16 of his 25 points in the first half. Arenas looked like the old Hibachi at times, draining threes (6 for 11 on the night) and dribbling to a comfortable spot, rising up and hitting a jumper. He definitely looked like he had some spring in his step, playing alongside Jameer Nelson in the starting lineup.
Nelson and Turkoglu were the real stars however. They took over the game in the fourth quarter, running the pick and roll masterfully with Dwight Howard. Nelson scored 18 points on 12 shots (a 75.0 percent true shooting percentage and an 85.7 percent effective field goal percentage) and also added nine assists. Hedo Turkoglu had 17 points and seven rebounds. And Brandon Bass became a focal point, especially early in the fourth quarter with Howard on the bench, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
Orlando overall cannot be happy this game went into overtime. But for sure, the team can be happy that when the switch is thrown, Orlando can be quite dangerous. Of course, the problem is doing it for 48 minutes against a quality opponent.