Savage & Cohen: Magic-Nuggets Postgame Analysis

By Dan Savage
March 18, 2011

The Orlando Magic have 12 games remaining on their schedule before they start the postseason, but they had a little taste of playoff action on Friday night.

Caught in the midst of a grind-it-out, playoff-like defensive battle with the resurgent new-look Nuggets, the Magic overcame injuries, turnovers and offensive struggles and pulled out a thrilling 85-82 home triumph over Denver courtesy of a big shot from a player who’s often the barometer of Orlando’s success.

With 5.2 seconds left on the clock, Jameer Nelson received an inbounds pass from Hedo Turkoglu, sized up Ty Lawson, created space and drilled a straightaway game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Magic to one of their most exhilarating victories of the season.

“I just wanted to create a little space to either make a move to get to the basket or to get my jump shot off,” explained Nelson, who finished with 13 points. “I got him back on his heels just a little bit to get my shot off. He played great defense, I was very fortunate to make the shot.”

Following Mighty Mouse’s heroic trey, the Magic broke out into March-Madness-like celebration at center court, which was only fitting considering Orlando played with a do-or-die-like attitude for the majority of the night.

“It felt like a playoff game in terms of the effort we put out for the game, the energy that we used, the emotions involved, the crowd.” Nelson added. “Everything that goes into a playoff game felt like tonight.”

Orlando’s intense effort on the defensive end helped mask a dismal 37.3 shooting night from the floor and another terrible performance taking care of the basketball. Orlando finished the night with 18 turnovers that led to 20 Nuggets points.

“We’re still turning the ball over way too much,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “But our guys gave a terrific effort today, absolutely terrific.”

That sustained energy level was exactly what Orlando’s All-Star center had been looking for. And he couldn’t have been more pleased with his team’s grind-it-out attitude.

“We did a great job on the defensive end tonight,” said Howard, who notched 16 points and 18 rebounds. “I’m so happy about the progress we made on the defensive end from shootaround to tonight’s game. It shows the guys effort and energy and that we really want to win.”

With an emotional victory now under their belt, my esteemed colleague Josh Cohen examines the top storylines from the Magic's Friday night affair:

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By Josh Cohen


It’s becoming a familiar theme in Jameer Nelson’s career.

You can interchange a variety of descriptive words to expound his value: Clutch, hero, reliable.

Just like he has done several times this season, Nelson delivered a knockout punch of seismic proportion. On this occasion, however, it was as invigorating as a racing heart can ask for.

Mighty Mouse, as he is affectionately nicknamed, connected on a game-winning straightaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to catapult the Orlando Magic past the Denver Nuggets on Friday.

"I just wanted to get the last shot," Nelson said. "Nobody was open off the initial play; it was up to me to make a play for myself or somebody else."

Though Nelson’s heroic shot could have been avoided as Orlando missed some critical free throws in the final 30 seconds, this kind of dramatic and exhilarating victory may have been exactly what the Magic needed.

Jameer finished with 13 points, while Hedo Turkoglu approached a triple-double with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists and Dwight Howard enjoyed another monster performance with 16 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks.

Wilson Chandler, who was one of the chief pieces in last month’s blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade, delivered a fine effort for Denver with 20 points. Danilo Gallinari, meanwhile, who was one of the other chips in the deal, recorded 17 points in his return from a toe injury.


Dan Savage and I argued last season about whether it is more elating to win an important game at home or on the road.

Perhaps in the near future we should debate whether it’s more exciting to see your favorite team bury a game-winning shot at home or on the road.

For now, I will give my thoughts.

Although there is devious joy in watching your team send the opposing fans home in tears, I think watching the uproar of exhilaration from the home crowd is more magnificent.

Like it was when Jameer Nelson drained a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against the Nuggets, the aftermath of emotion from the players and fans is pretty extraordinary. Everyone is celebrating and high-fiving. Everyone leaves the arena exultant and proud.

While walking to my media room work space, I couldn’t help but notice fans on the phone with their friends telling them they just watched one of the greatest endings to a game they had ever seen.

Moments like these are exactly why you want to get tickets and come watch the Magic live.


After witnessing Jameer Nelson bury a game-winning buzzer-beater on Friday, I started analyzing which sport features the most exhilarating and most awe-inspiring game-winning play.

Here are the nominees:

1) Basketball: Can be a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, mid-range jumper or even a slam dunk (ex. Dwight Howard’s jam against the Spurs in 2007)

2) Football: Can be a last-second touchdown pass or run or a game-clinching field goal as time expires

3) Baseball: Can be a walk-off base hit or better yet, a homerun to seal a victory in the ninth inning or extra innings

4) Soccer: Can be a goal in penalty kicks or a stop by the goalkeeper in the same round

They are all breathtaking moments and incontestably all of them are special in their own way. But if I had to select one, I really feel that there is nothing that gets a stadium more elated than a game-winning buzzer beater in basketball.

Which sport do you think features the most exhilarating type of game-winning play?
Which sport do you think features the most exhilarating type of game-winning play?
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It’s not something that is generally discussed since they all have transformed into NBA superstars, but there is always somewhat of a curiosity where some players would have went to college if they had not jumped directly to the professional ranks prior to 2006 when high school prodigies were permitted to enter the draft.

It especially is fascinating this time of year with March Madness in full effect.

Dwight Howard
Howard had stated early in his NBA career that he had considered attending North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Duke. If he went to UNC for at least one season, Howard would have joined a school that had won the NCAA championship in what would have been D12’s freshman year. Raymond Felton, an opponent of Howard on Friday, was the starting point guard for the Tar Heels that year.

Kobe Bryant
It’s not much of a secret that Kobe had originally desired to attend Duke and play for Coach K well before they united together for Team USA.

LeBron James
Before announcing that he would definitely enter the 2003 NBA Draft, LeBron had narrowed his college options to Ohio State, Florida, Duke, North Carolina and Louisville. It’s somewhat paradoxical that James predicts the Buckeyes to win the NCAA Tournament.

Amar’e Stoudemire
Before Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall decided to play for John Calipari, Stoudemire was about to before he opted to become a pro instead. Amar’e had originally verbally committed to Memphis.

Andrew Bynum
I covered Bynum during his high school days at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, NJ and I remember when he decided to commit to the University of Connecticut before changing his mind last minute to enter the NBA Draft.

Tracy McGrady
T-Mac was allegedly set to attend Kentucky in 1997 and play for a school that ultimately ended up capturing the NCAA title the year he would have been a freshman. On that championship team was Nazr Mohammad and Jamaal Magloire.

J.R. Smith
It’s very possible that Howard and Smith would have been college teammates if they had both went to college because the current Nuggets guard had signed a letter of intent to play at UNC before entering the NBA Draft the same year Dwight did.


Here is the general synopsis of how each player performed during the Orlando Magic’s victory over the Denver Nuggets on Friday:

Dwight Howard: Was a monster on the boards (18) and made it painfully difficult for Denver to attack the lane with his relentless defensive focus

Hedo Turkoglu: Following a disillusioned first quarter, Turk made practically all the appropriate plays to nearly record a triple double (15 points, nine rebounds, eight assists). He did, however, miss two critical free throws in the final seconds to keep the Nuggets alive

Jameer Nelson: After struggling with his jumper most of the game, Nelson delivered an enormous game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. Any time a player hits a winning shot, praise follows

Jason Richardson: Didn’t have his shot going but did play solid defense on both Arron Afflalo and J.R. Smith

Brandon Bass: Hustled his way to the basket on many possessions, but just had trouble finishing at the rim. He finished with 13 points on 2-of-13 shooting from the field

Ryan Anderson: Did a solid job down low grabbing rebounds and helping on defensive rotations. Like his teammates, however, he couldn’t find the range on his shot

Quentin Richardson & Chris Duhon: With the injuries to J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas, Q and Duhon provided just enough support with their defensive aptitude and cautious decisions. They combined for just one turnover in a combined 33 minutes.

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