Denton's Dish: Magic at Bucks (2/20/12)
By John Denton
February 20, 2012
MILWAUKEE – Better late than never, the Orlando Magic just keep finding ways to crush the Milwaukee Bucks with their clutch heroics in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Anderson, the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter who had been kept under wraps most of the night, buried a go-ahead three from the top of the arc with 18 seconds remaining. The shot capped a rally from five points down in the fourth quarter and gave the Magic a 93-90 victory and a third-come-from-behind win against the Bucks in the past 10 days.
``No matter who you are playing, it’s so hard to beat a team three times in a season. But to do it three times in 10 days, that’s amazing,’’ said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who had the feed to Anderson for the go-ahead shot.
The Magic (21-12) rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Bucks 99-94 in Milwaukee on Feb. 11. Then, six days later Orlando overcame a sluggish three quarters and again wiped out a 10-point deficit in a 94-84 defeat of Milwaukee.
On Monday, a day after losing badly in Miami, the Magic were clutch time and again for one of their most thrilling victories of the season. J.J. Redick, who started in place of the ailing Jason Richardson and had 11 points, drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:23 to play. Superstar center Dwight Howard (28 points and 16 rebounds) hit a tying free throw with 52 seconds left to play, made a pinpoint pass to Redick for his three and his tight defense forced Ersan Ilyasova to pass on a 3-pointer in the final seconds.
When the game was over, Anderson and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis hugged, Howard flexed his muscles and pumped his fist and several Magic players danced around rookie forward DeAndre Liggins, who contributed to a win in his first-ever NBA action.
``Unbelievable, it’s just really unbelievable,’’ elated Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. ``It’s unbelievable for that to happen three times in 10 days, being down in the fourth and finding a way. It’s incredible.’’
The Magic get a much-needed day off on Tuesday before closing the first half of the season with road games against New Jersey (Wednesday) and Atlanta (Thursday). They will take with them to New Jersey the good vibes of a win where they had to once again scratch, claw and convert down the stretch.
``It was very tough for us all night, but we stayed with it, stayed together and got a really good win,’’ Howard said.
Here’s a look at some of the key moments from Monday’s game in Milwaukee:
Anderson came into the game leading the NBA in 3-pointers made (93) and attempted (212), but he had made just one three in the first 47 minutes because of the heady defense by Ilyasova.
But Anderson never hesitated on the go-ahead shot, draining the 3-pointer from the top of the arc.
``It was a wide-open look. Jameer made a great pass and J.J. made a great play to get to the rim,’’ said Anderson, who finished with nine points, 11 rebounds and two 3-pointers. ``It’s pretty unbelievable that we’ve come back every game against these guys. We’ve matched their energy in all three of these games and we’ve gotten a run at the end.’’
He made five of his first eight shot,s including a nifty 22-foot face-up early in the fourth quarter that put the Magic ahead 71-70. Van Gundy called it Davis’ best performance of the season.
``When things aren’t going right you can’t really mentally focus to change what’s going on. You lose confidence and lose yourself, but I’m trying to take it one day at a time and get it back,’’ Davis said. ``I’m trying to get back to being that player that I know I can be. I want to be the player that everybody knows and has seen before.’’
Davis, who missed last Friday’s game against Milwaukee following the death of his father, vowed on Sunday that there was nowhere to go but up for him because his game had been at ``rock bottom.’’ He was one of a very few Magic players to play well on Sunday in Miami, scoring 12 points and making all six of his free throw attempts.
``You never want a death or something bad to take you away from the game, but time does heal,’’ said Davis, who has had to cope with the deaths of his grandmother and father in the past three weeks. ``This is just one game and I have a whole bunch more games to play to make up for all of the games that I didn’t show up for.’’
Richardson, who scored 31 points and hit nine 3-pointers in Orlando’s win against the Bucks 10 days ago, said he will likely seek a second opinion from another doctor on Tuesday because of the pain in his lungs and chest.
``When I started the deep breathing and running I was feeling the sharp pains in my chest again,’’ Richardson said. ``Any time there is pain on the left side near your heart you have to make sure it’s not something serious.’’
Richardson was hit when Milwaukee’s Larry Sanders drove to the rim. Richardson needed help to limp to the bench and he was in obvious pain for several minutes after taking the hit.
Richardson wore a heating pad on the leg the rest of the first half, but was unable to return in the second half. His availability for Wednesday’s game in New Jersey is unknown, but it could be in serious jeopardy considering the pain he was in following the injury.
Without the benefit of a rookie league, pre-camp workouts or a full training camp, Liggins has had to learn the Magic’s system mostly by watching. But he kept himself ready to play and contributed three free throws and two rebounds in 10 minutes.
``I was just happy to help my team win. They called on me and I was ready to play,’’ Liggins said as he was being razzed by his teammates. ``It was like paradise for me. It was amazing to be out there playing on a NBA court. I still have to get adjusted and I have a lot to learn, but I like working hard, I like this team and I like the coaching staff. I just want to continue working hard.’’
He had six offensive rebounds, three of them coming in the fourth quarter alone.
``If they are going to hug me like that off screens and take away the threes, I have to find other ways to contribute,’’ Anderson said. ``I had to get more active offensively and do other things like setting screens and getting on the glass. Me crashing the boards, that’s something that I can control and that’s what I tried to do tonight.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org
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