The sight of Philadelphia's red jerseys gets Ryan Anderson excited. It always seems his energy is up and the 76ers have no answer for him. Doug Collins thought he found the answer.
Not having to worry about Dwight Howard (18.0 points per game and 15.7 rebounds per game against Philadelphia this year) or Glen Davis (23 points, 12 rebounds against the 76ers last Saturday) helped too. The Magic lacked the low post threat that would give Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand an easier time. Doug Collins inserted Thaddeus Young into the lineup to try and slow Ryan Anderson down.
Stan Van Gundy thought it was a good move.
Turns out it wasn't.
Anderson, averaging 20.5 points per game and 11.0 rebounds per game while shooting 7 for 14 from beyond the arc in two games this season, had another big game against the 76ers. Nothing Philadelphia could do would slow him down.
Ryan, mired in a strange shooting slump for him, at least, shooting 7 for 33 from the floor the last three games and 2 for 19 from beyond the arc in that time, took to the boards to get himself going. Anderson was flying into the paint and sneaking past Young and Philadelphia's front line for offensive rebounds. He had eight of Orlando's 13 offensive rebounds. Anderson had 16 points and 26 rebounds, hitting 11 of his 16 shots and both (that's right: two) of his 3-point attempts.
That was not enough on its own to ensure the Magic would get a win. Timely shooting -- like Quentin Richardson's seven-point run at the beginning of the second quarter or Jason Richardson's 3-pointer from the corner in the fourth quarter to hold off a late Philadelphia rally -- and a whole bunch of energy and assertiveness throughout from just about everyone on the roster.
Orlando got the energy and confidence it needs to keep pushing and moving forward in what has become a long season now full of injuries and frustration. Philadelphia continued a tailspin as Orlando took a 113-100 win at Amway Center. It brought the Magic that much closer to avoiding having to play the Heat or Bulls in the first round and securing the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Securing that playoff positioning is certainly taking everything the Magic have.
Orlando got a consecutive solid game from Earl Clark, who now seems to be oozing with confidence. Clark had 14 points and 11 rebounds, his first career double double, in 34 minutes. Clark was attacking the basket and cleaning up the glass. He also had a strong defensive game against Andre Iguodala for a good chunk of the night. Clark though made the Sixers pay with his jump shooting.
Yes, it was pretty clear that Philadelphia read the scouting report and went under every screen Clark set and let him hoist away on jumpers. He made them -- 7 of his 14 field goals on the evening -- and in big moments. A number of his jumpers fell in the fourth quarter as Orlando kept Philadelphia at bay.
This turned out to be a game of runs. The Magic were slow out of the gates offensively in the first quarter, trailing by nine points in the first frame and shooting worse than 40 percent. The Magic needed every single one of the offensive rebounds they grabbed to keep pace with the Sixers.
Philadelphia, one of the worst offenses among Playoff contenders, was shooting better than 50 percent for most of the game and had the offense rolling. The 76ers hit on 50 percent of their shots and 9 of their 18 3-pointers. Jrue Holiday had 18 points on 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Holiday did much of his damage in the first quarter.
But the energy from Orlando appeared to be too much for a sleepwalking and struggling Philadelphia squad. The Magic took the lead in the second quarter as Richardson scored eight of his 13 points in the period and seemed never to look back.
Jameer Nelson took control too in the fourth quarter on his way to 16 points and 13 assists, becoming the third Magic player to reach a double double in this game.
It seemed like everyone had a turn to carry the team and execute. there was J.J. Redick taking the reigns early on in the game. It was Quentin Richardson in the second quarter. It was Jameer Nelson throughout the second half. Ryan Anderson in the third quarter. And Earl Clark helping to finish off the game.
This is the exact kind of effort and teamwork the team needs. Offensively, Orlando had few turnovers (just 11 for the game) and had the ball moving and players moving off the ball. This is what Orlando needs to see for the rest of the season and certainly when Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard return to the lineup.
It was a win and an effort that Stan Van Gundy and his team were really proud of. For back-to-back nights the team played with urgency and played together. That is a good sign as the regular season draws to an end.
But now the real challenge comes with Boston and a West Coast trip on the horizon.