The Magic looked about as listless as Hedo Turkoglu's drive attempt did with about three and a half minutes remaining in the game. Attempts to drive toward the basket were blocked, open shooters were not coming available and the Raptors seemed to absolutely smother the Magic.
Turkoglu pump faked, hoping to create space. He did and his falling away desperation 3-pointer as the shot clock expired hit the bottom of the net. From 29 feet away, seemingly how far away it seemed the Magic were at winning their fourth consecutive game after trailing by as much as 16 in the third quarter and 11 entering the fourth quarter behind an uninspiring defensive effort, Turkoglu gave Orlando the lead and an improbable comeback considering the energy and defense the team had played to that point.
Ryan Anderson followed that 3-pointer with a 3-pointer of his own with 3:12 to play to give the Magic a five-point lead, capping off a 16-0 run over about five minutes in the fourth quarter. The young Toronto team was unraveling and could not find the offensive efficiency and defensive strength that had come so easy in the three quarters prior.
Orlando could extend its win streak with a gritty, gutsy 102-96 win over Toronto at Amway Center on Sunday.
"It always feels great when you make those kind of shots," Turkoglu said. "I was happy about and what I did in the foruth quarter. Until that time, guys were really fighting hard and I had foul problems and I came in the fourth quarter, Stan gave me the ball and tried to go to work. God always helps me out in those situations and I was able to have a good night again."
Turkoglu led the attack in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of his 15 points and hitting four of six shots and both of his 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. More importantly, he played nearly nine minutes of the fourth quarter with five fouls and got the team going attacking the basket. Those fouls were critical as the Magic struggled to keep Toronto from parading to the free throw line.
The fourth quarter though was all about the Magic. In addition to the 16-0 run, Orlando outscored Toronto 32-15, finally solving an improved and togeter defensive effort from Toronto. The Magic hit 12 of 17 shots and five of seven 3-pointers.
Everything seemed to fall in as the Magic found their stride and had the spark to get the win.
They finally got on the same page defensively after making an adjustment to how they would rotate and defend the pick and roll. Toronto shot just 5 for 15 from the floor and after 25 free throw attempts through three quarters, Toronto went to the line just four times in the fourth quarter.
It was a near complete turnaround and the kind of gritty win that reminded of the 2009 team that went to the Finals.
"We just started making shots," said Dwight Howard, who scored 19 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. "We never panicked. It kind of reminded me of the team that went to the Finals. When we were down, instead of us pointing the finger and getting mad at each other, we just kept coming in the huddle saying, 'Let's stick with the gameplan. We know what we've got to do, and just do it.' And we came out on top."
It was very reminiscent of some of those wins in 2009 and 2010 when the team would get gritty wins and score victories when they did not have their best efforts for 48 minutes. Stan Van Gundy and Howard both said that there was some confusion over pick and roll assignments early on in the game. The Magic were trying something different with pick and rolls.
The Magic looked about as listless as could be in the first three quarters, especially on the defensive end. Andrea Bargnani scored 19 of his 28 points in the first half and was really working on pick and pop plays. Van Gundy said he was most upset that the team did not stay disciplined and stay down against Bargnani, giving up driving lanes and shot opportunities to the big man and to several other players. The free throw discrepancy displays a lot of those problems.
But Orlando stayed in it. Ryan Anderson, who scored a team-high 24 points, said this was the first win this year where the team had to fight back and could have just given up.
This was really a game of two comebacks. The Magic trailed by 13 in the first quarter and used a 14-2 run in the fourth quarter to go up by two points. That run was sparked by a strong push to attack the basket. The Magic scored 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the paint. Of course, the Raptors pushed back and took a five-point lead into the locker room.
Here, Orlando made some adjustments in the locker room and got back to find the points to win this game, gaining that spark in the fourth quarter.
"We did a great job staying with the game and the bottom line is that it is a 48-minute game," Stan Van Gundy said. "And over 48 minutes, we got the job done. I am happy as hell with that. But hopefully, we can learn from that."
"We made far too many mistakes tonight where we weren't disciplined, and we gave them easy baskets. We have to be better than that. I think we showed we could do that going down the stretch. So we've got to do it and do it better."
It remains to be seen whether the team can carry on this momentum or find the consistency necessary to avoid scares like this. Tomorrow is another game, this one in Detroit.
The team has had some moments of inconsistency, especially on the offensive end this season. There is still obviously a long way to go before games get serious and Orlando has not faced any Playoff teams from last year since the loss to Oklahoma City.
What is good is that the team hung tough and found a way to get enough to win the game. That counts for something.
"I think it was great for the team to stick with the gameplan, no matter what happened in the first three quarters," Howard said. "Toronto was shooting the ball very well the whole game and we held them to 15 points int eh fourth quarter. It was a great team win. We stuck with it. We just played the right way, we ran, we got stops when we needed it. Right now, I'm just happy at the fact that, instead of us poitning the finger like we did in years past, we just played through it and understand that it is going to take all of us to get the win.