By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive
In one of the most astonishing endings in NBA regular season history, the Orlando Magic prevailed in a game that will likely often be rerun during NBA classic game marathons on any of the notable sports television networks.
Facing an unthinkable home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Magic found their magic wand late and pulled off a trick that sure will amaze any soul with an imagination.
Desperate for some kind of miracle, Orlando first relied on Jason Richardson to deliver something spectacular.
J-Rich connected on an atypical game-tying four-point play with 17 seconds left in regulation. On Philly’s subsequent possession, Lou Williams’ potential game-winning 3-point shot attempt bounced high off the front rim, spun around the cylinder before finally bouncing out to send the game into overtime.
If fans thought that was enough drama, OT was perhaps even more special.
Perhaps jealous of J-Rich, J.J. Redick matched his heroics when he converted on his own four-point play with less than two minutes left in OT to put Orlando ahead.
It came down to one last defensive stop and somehow, someway, Philly’s two potential game-winning shot attempts (one from Andre Iguodala and another by Evan Turner) rimmed off.
"That was crazy," said Dwight Howard, who recorded 18 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. "I mean it was ridiculous how crazy the game was."
Aside from all of the astonishment, however, Ryan Anderson deserves praise for his outstanding performance. The 6'10 power forward posted a season-best 20 points to lead Orlando.
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And courtesy of two out-of-this-world four-point conversions by Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick, the Magic received the boost they needed to pull off an amazing victory.
Richardson connected on a four-point play with 17 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Redick followed with a meaningful one of his own in the extra session to help the Magic earn a thrilling 99-98 home triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
“That was about as crazy of a game as you will ever see right there,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “We had two four-point plays down the stretch, which was crazy.”
Adding to the insanity was the fact that the Magic had to play the final 49.4 seconds of regulation and all of overtime without superstar center Dwight Howard, who fouled out of the contest.
“We played the last quarter and overtime without Dwight; it was just a crazy game,” Van Gundy added. “We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance. It was an incredible win; my head is still spinning.”
Along with the two phenomenal shots from J-Rich and Redick, Orlando was also lifted by a tremendous showing from Ryan Anderson.
The Magic’s backup power forward came off the pine and erupted for a game-high 20 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
“Ryan Anderson killed us,” said frustrated Sixers Head Coach Doug Collins. “The one thing he can do now is if you switch on the pick and roll, he can get in there and post you. And when Dwight Howard was out, he was the guy that made all of the critical baskets for them.”
READ REST OF ANALYSIS
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Considering the Orlando Magic were facing an unthinkable home loss and knowing how imperative it was for them to bounce back from a 1-3 road trip, the conclusion to Wednesday’s game definitely ranks among the most astonishing finishes in my book.
No, I won’t quite rank it ahead of Dwight Howard’s memorable game-winning buzzer-beating slam dunk against the Spurs in 2007 and no it won’t be regarded as momentous as Nick Anderson’s steal on Michael Jordan during the 1995 NBA playoffs.
But as far as pure unexpectedness and dubiousness, this night is among the most peculiar.
I do recall a four-point play that deserves appreciation as the most meaningful four-point play in NBA history. While playing for New York, Larry Johnson connected on a game-winning four-point play during the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals that essentially boosted the Knicks to ultimately upset the Pacers and advance to The Finals.
I recently came up with a list of the most amazing shots in the last decade. Decide if J-Rich and Redick’s reproduced four-point conversions deserve to be in this list:
1) Morris Peterson’s improbable heave against the Wizards (WATCH)
2) Rasheed Wallace’s incredible hail mary against the Nuggets (WATCH)
3) Dwight Howard’s spectacular slam against the Spurs (WATCH)
4) Devin Harris’ toss against the 76ers (WATCH)
5) David Lee’s remarkable tip-in against the Bobcats (WATCH)
Generally when analyzing sports, there is a way to characterize specific teams’ strengths and weaknesses. In basketball, for example, usually when a team is an above average offensive team, it consistently shows up in the box score. It’s normally the same math on the defensive end.
However, with this year’s Orlando Magic (pre and post trades), it’s practically impossible to forecast what to expect from them.
During their recent four-game road trip, the Magic were essentially unstoppable offensively – burying at least 11 3-pointers per contest. During their recent franchise tying-high nine-game winning streak, similarly, at least five players scored in double figures in each of the victories.
While showcasing offensive excellence, however, the Magic did not defend particularly well. They, for instance, allowed Oklahoma City and Boston to score well over 100 points.
On Wednesday against Philadelphia, it was essentially the exact opposite. In spite of not shooting well (8-of-24 from 3-point range) and committing 16 turnovers, Orlando played stifling defense – limiting the 76ers to 42 percent shooting and denying them from connecting on potential game-winning shots in both regulation and overtime.
It was apparent Orlando's defense was more intense when J.J. Redick recorded a blocked shot in the second quarter.
"I would say, in my career, regular season, it's my first legitimate block," Redick said. "I feel pretty good about that."
After missing nine straight games due to a mid-foot sprain, the Magic’s backup power forward is averaging 12.6 points per contest since his return.
He had another sensational affair on Wednesday as he posted a team-high 20 points off the bench in Orlando’s victory over Philadelphia.
It was the first time since joining the Magic that the University of California product led the team in scoring.
“I just made some open shots,” a modest Anderson explained. “It’s not like I was going one-on-one taking over the game, my shots were just falling.”
Instead Redick was focused on a totally separate event: a block that took place early in the second quarter.
“I would say in my career, regular season, it’s my first legitimate block,” he explained. “I’ve probably had one or two in my career, but they’ve been kind of the swipe down kind. But this was a legitimate blocked shot.”
With one rejection now under his belt, Orlando’s back up shooting guard is now focused on a lofty goal: Defensive Player of the Year.
“You guys will probably see (Magic Vice President of Public Relations) Joel Glass tomorrow at practice start campaigning for Defensive Player of the Year,” a joking Redick said with a sly smile. “So I started tonight.”
Orlando is now 12-1 this season when six or more players score in double digits.