Denton: Magic-Bulls Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
April 10, 2011

ORLANDO – Staring intently at a courtside replay monitor, Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson saw the cold, hard truth with his own eyes – his potential game-tying 3-point shot from 28 feet left his fingertips just a fraction of a second after time had expired.

``Well,’’ Nelson said after slapping the padded table next to the monitor, ``at least we put the pressure on them.’’

Nelson could have been talking about the referees, who had to rule that the shot that hit nothing but net was no good much to the disappointment of the sellout crowd of 19,181 at the Amway Center. But Nelson could have just as well been referring to the East-leading Chicago Bulls, who survived 102-99 despite the Magic having to play without superstar center Dwight Howard.

``We came out in this game to prove something to ourselves that we could play hard without Dwight,’’ said Nelson, who 17 points, 11 assists and three steals despite the final heave being waived off. ``We played really, really hard. We’re not here for moral victories, but we know we did a lot of good things in this game.’’

The Magic (50-30) didn’t have Howard because of a NBA-mandated one-game suspension for picking up his 18th technical foul. It’s the second time this season that Howard’s been suspended, and the Magic dropped both games at home.

Missing Howard, the heavy favorite to win his third straight Defensive Player of the Year trophy, was evident throughout as the Bulls (60-20) shot 60 percent and scored 40 points in the paint. Derrick Rose, the player expected to finish just ahead of Howard in the race for the Most Valuable Player award, scored 39 points – many of them coming on dazzling drives to the hoop.

And the Magic failed to get a critical rebound off a free throw miss with 14 seconds to play, another area where Howard’s muscle and hustle could have come into play. Taj Gibson’s free throw missed badly and the rebound caromed over Ryan Anderson’s head and into the hands of Luol Deng.

``That was the most awkward bounce off of the rim on a free throw I’ve ever really seen,’’ Anderson said. ``I wasn’t expecting that. Usually that’s something I don’t slip up on, so that’s frustrating – especially when it’s Luol Deng. That’s a guy I could have gotten a rebound over, so that’s frustrating to me.’’

The moment spoiled an otherwise stellar performance from Anderson, who set his career high with 28 points. He made four 3-pointers, hit all six of his free throws and grabbed 10 rebounds. But after the game all he could think about was the one that got away.

Muttered Anderson: ``I’m not a good guy at letting others down.’’

Jason Richardson scored 24 points by making 10 of 14 shots and four of five 3-pointers. His 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left cut a four-point deficit to one and made Nelson’s potential heroics just after the buzzer possible.

Here’s a look back at what went right, what went wrong and some final observations from Sunday’s nationally televised game from the Amway Center: