A win over the Washington Wizards is not going to impress anyone. Sorry. It just is not. This is still, despite a much more inspired level of play under new head coach Randy Wittman, one of the bottom feeders in the league.
Considering though where Orlando has been, and where it still wants to go, any win with a strong offensive outpouring, with a decent defensive effort, with ball movement, with any type of energy would go a long way to getting this team back to where it wants to be. Even if defeating the Wizards and needing to scrap and claw to do so is not going to signal this team is out of the woods in this strange funk, it is at least a step in the right direction.
The energy was there all night. Slowly the precision came back for phases of the game. Slowly the ball started falling into the basket. Slowly Orlando started to make the plays necessary to score a win.
The Magic snapped that four-game losing streak and, hopefully put behind a week of some of the worst offensive performances in team history. The Magic took control in a 40-point fourth quarter (you read that correctly) and held on as the Wizards made a furious rally behind Nick Young. Orlando can look ahead to matching this performance after a 109-103 win at Amway Center on Wednesday.
The offense is obviously the focus after failing to score 100 points in the last five games and just the second time Orlando scored 100 points since the Jan. 16 win against New York. For a team that has a lot of offensive weapons and the ability to space the floor around Dwight Howard, that is just bizzare. It really is incredibly bizzare.
Orlando scored more than 20 points in every quarter tonight (yes, that is a big step for a team struggling to put the ball in the basket), shot 45.2 percent from the floor and, more importantly, hit on 13 of its 30 3-point attempts.
Some of the same problems still existed. The Wizards were not a panacea and were fighting hard to try and take advantage of the depleted and disheartened Magic. But, offensively at least, Orlando got those problems under control.
The Magic attacked the basket a little more aggressively, trying to work the inside-out game. It largely worked with a few hiccups and a few stetches where Dwight Howard did not touch the ball enough. What made things really good though was the fact Howard and the rest of the team was hitting free throws. Howard scored 21 points, making 11 of his 16 free throws. That helped set the tone and give the team the confidence to continue to attack. Orlando had 39 free throw attempts, making 30 of them.
J.J. Redick had eight free throw attempts (made all of them) showing his craftiness to draw fouls and get the defense to move out of rotation. Redick finished with 21 points. Hedo Turkoglu, who struggled to find his shot throughout the game, got six free throw attempts. One of his two misses ended up in Ryan Anderson's hands and then back to Turkoglu for his second 3-pointer and 16th point of the night at a big moment in the fourth quarter.
Orlando pushed the lead out to 10 several times in the fourth quarter and were able to match a desperate Washington team. Nick Young scored most of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. After fighting foul trouble the entire game, Young just caught fire and single-handedly kept the Wizards within shouting distance.
Again, it was not a complete effort. It was not a perfect game. The Magic scored 40 points in the fourth, but gave up 35 thanks to that barrage from Young at the end.
There was also the stretch in the second quarter when Dwight Howard went out of the game leaving the second unit in to flounder away a double-digit lead. The Wizards second unit took a six-point lead in the second quarter thanks to that drought from the Magic and aggressive play from Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis, Shelvin Mack and Kevin Seraphin. After all, Howard was not in the game, there was not deterrent at the rim.
Orlando came back strong to retake the lead by halftime thanks to a really disciplined zone defense that forced Washington to take mid-range jumpers. Ryan Anderson's 23 points and hot shooting from beyond the arc did not hurt either.
Shooting is definitely not the Wizards strong point. As Stan Van Gundy pointed out in the postgame press conference, Washington was shooting worse than 30 percent on 3-pointers. That made Young's barrage late all the more surprising.
The Magic also had 11 of their 16 turnovers in the first half, showing that propensity to give up the ball that bogged down the offense and put them in a hole throughout the losing streak.
There are obviously a lot of questions that still need answering. Orlando has to be better taking care of the ball and continue the ball movement that made the team successful tonight. The Magic tended to settle for 3-pointers in the cold stretches and did not attack as much or took the first semi-open shot they got. Dwight Howard did not get the ball as often as he should have considering his rhythm on the free throw line.
There is also the puzzling way the Magic allowed the Wizards back into the game. That stretch included a strange Larry Hughes turnover late that gave the Wizards their fifth point in seven seconds. The Magic announced that Larry Hughes had been waived after the game. Assumedly, the Magic will be signing another point guard considering Jameer Nelson is still working his way through the NBA's new concussion policy to get back on the court.
You take the win first and foremost though. Without doubt.
And that gets Orlando headed back in the right direction.