Savage & Cohen: Magic-Sixers Analysis

By Dan Savage
January 19, 2011


ORLANDO -- If there was ever a time the Orlando Magic needed a series of unbelievable, let-me-see-that-one-more-time type of plays tonight was that night.

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.


Dan Savage
“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.”

In addition to his offensive output, Anderson also aided Orlando with his effort on the glass and defensive end.

“Ryan can do more than just stand out there and shoot threes, as you saw tonight,” Van Gundy said. “I think he played great defensively. He played so well that I would have regretted taking him out if we didn’t win the game.”

With perhaps one of the most bizarre finishes to a close contest as you’ll ever see in an NBA game behind them, the Magic will now turn their attention to the Toronto Raptors.

But before we get caught up in that contest, OrlandoMagic.com’s Josh Cohen will take you through the Top 5 storylines from Wednesday’s affair.

Follow Dan Savage on Twitter here


By Josh Cohen
January 19, 2011


1) WHERE AMAZING HAPPENS

Magic was at Amway Center on Wednesday.

Literally.

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.

He did.

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.

This was a night that you will definitely one day tell your grandchildren about.



Josh Cohen
2) AMONG THE MOST MEMORABLE FINISHES IN SOME TIME

In spite of both not being last-second or buzzer-beating shots and although neither Jason Richardson nor J.J. Redick’s atypical four-point plays "won the game,” these reproduced conversions deserve to be recognized as two of the most remarkable late-game shots in NBA history.

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)


3) WIN LIKE THIS CAN INSPIRE TEAM MOVING FORWARD

These are the kinds of victories that can help transfigure a team’s season.

After losing three out of four on the road and showing disconcerting signs on Wednesday, the Orlando Magic found a way to win in inspiring fashion.

While some critics and observers will suggest that irrespective of how a team wins or loses it still counts as the same thing in the standings, I believe extraordinary triumphs like the Magic had against the 76ers can have an influence on how they perform in the future.

Instead of wondering why the game was so close and why they needed a couple of miracle plays to catapult it to victory, Orlando should utilize this win as a source of motivation and confidence.

It’s also a great educational lesson.

Sometimes a team can assume if they are trailing late by a margin that seems insurmountable they can mail it in and accept a loss.

But like the Magic exhibited on Wednesday and at other points this season, it’s imperative to show resolve even in the darkest of times.

No, a team can’t rely on four-point plays to save them from losses 99 percent of the time. But a win like this shows that a game is never over even when it may seem bleak.


4) DEFENSE HELPED MAKE SPECIAL NIGHT POSSIBLE

It’s inarguable that the Orlando Magic’s season thus far has been unpredictable, irregular and fascinating. It’s virtually impractical to contend that theory after what transpired on Wednesday in perhaps the most remarkable finish this NBA season.

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.


5) PHILLY SHOULD BE HAPPY & RELIEVED ABOUT BRAND'S REVIVAL

There are plenty of inspiring stories from this NBA season.

Blake Griffin, for example, rebounding from a knee injury last season with the L.A. Clippers to have one of the most outstanding rookie campaigns in the league’s history and Amar’e Stoudemire helping the New York Knicks crawl out of the gutter and into relevance are two of the most beguiling stories.

But one tale that is often forgotten about or simply ignored is the resurgence of Elton Brand, who quietly is enjoying his best season since signing a five-year $82 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2008.

There was a thunderous applause and celebration in Philadelphia after Brand chose to leave the Clippers and join a budding Sixers franchise nearly three years ago. Expectations were high and optimism was soaring around the City of Brotherly Love.

Unfortunately for Brand and the entire 76ers organization, however, the two-time NBA All-Star suffered a season-concluding shoulder injury during his first year in Philly and immediately championship aspirations transformed into chants of “bust” and “mistake.”

The New York native’s second year with the Sixers was no better – averaging a career-low 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds. It was so bleak for the Brand that reportedly the organization would have almost done anything to relinquish his mega contract.

But rather than accept a diminishing role or let trade rumors and all the unenthusiastic criticism haunt him, Brand remained confident. Now, halfway into the season, he is back in the discussion as one of the best power forwards in the NBA.

Already with 15 double-doubles this season – eight more than what he had all of last year – and in spite of not having a good performance on Wednesday (eight points, four rebounds before fouling out in the fourth quarter), Brand has the rising Sixers back in playoff contention.

Follow Josh Cohen on Twitter here