Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Bobcats (4/25/12)
By John Denton
April 25, 2012
ORLANDO -- More important than locking down their No. 6 playoff seeding and avoiding the indignity of losing to the seven-win Charlotte Bobcats, the Orlando Magic boiled down the meaning of Wednesday’s win to its most basic purpose.
``Our playoff seeding or who we were going to play wasn’t on our minds at all; we just wanted to win a game because we haven’t won in awhile,’’ said Magic guard Jason Richardson, who scored 17 points and hit three 3-pointers in the Magic’s 102-95 defeat of Charlotte in the regular-season home finale.
With Wednesday’s win, Orlando (37-28) locked up the Eastern Conference’s sixth seed and set up a first-round showdown with the Indiana Pacers. The Magic beat the Pacers in three of four meetings during the regular season, but of course that was with superstar center Dwight Howard manning the middle. He won’t be around for the playoffs after having back surgery, but Orlando does hope to get Hedo Turkoglu back after he had missed the past three weeks with three fractures in his face.
``We really needed a win tonight to build some confidence before heading into the playoffs,’’ said Ryan Anderson, who had 24 points, 13 rebounds and seven offensive boards. ``We need to build off this and go into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves.’’
Before completely turning the focus to Indiana and a playoff series that will begin either Saturday or Sunday, the Magic preferred to focus on their ability to pull together Wednesday night and win despite losing another key player to injury.
Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis went down with a sprained ankle in the first quarter, but the Magic were able to win behind a career-best 31 points from guard J.J. Redick and 14 3-pointers from the squad.
``Obviously it was good for us to win and secure the sixth seed in the East,’’ said Redick, who made nine of 19 shots and six of 10 3-point shots. ``We’ve had a tough schedule. We played at Boston, who is fighting for their playoff lives. And Denver, who is fighting for playoff seedings. Those were all tough games and I think there’s a sense of relief. We now know who we’re going to play. You can start mentally preparing for that. And you know what hotel you are staying in, which is good.’’
Down the hall, the mood wasn’t so bright for the Bobcats (7-58). They lost for the 22nd game and are down to their final shot to avoid infamy. If the Bobcats can’t beat New York on Thursday in Charlotte, they will have a .106 winning percentage and eclipse the 9-73 Philadelphia 76ers from the 1972-73 season.
``It’s been tough, but we are just trying to move forward,’’ said Charlotte point guard D.J. Augustin, who had 23 points. ``Many people are laughing at us and making (the losing streak) as a joke, but we take it very seriously. We are just trying to stay positive and play hard until the end.’’
Charlotte trailed by as much as 17 points in the first half, but got within 67-66 with 5:31 left in the third quarter. But the Magic responded by scoring the next seven points and they were never seriously threatened in the fourth quarter.
The Magic close the regular season on Thursday in Memphis against the Grizzlies. Head coach Stan Van Gundy said the team will use its Thursday morning walkthrough to begin preparations for the Pacers and will likely rest the starters against the Grizzlies.
``It was a good win even though the team you’re playing is 50 games under .500,’’ Van Gundy said. ``But with the guys that we had I was worried if we were going to have enough guys to finish the game with all of the fouls. But I’ll take it because it was a good win.’’
Magic point guard Jameer Nelson narrowly missed the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He might have reached double digits in assists and rebounds had he not fouled out with 2:42 to play.
Said Nelson: ``I told the guys if that’s what it takes to win I’ll foul out of every game.’’
Here is a look at some of the key moments from Wednesday’s home finale from the Amway Center:
- With no inside game to speak of following the injury to Davis, Redick became a focal point of the offense in the second half. And he responded with a career-best shooting night to help the Magic avoid the embarrassment of losing to the Bobcats.
Redick’s two biggest shots of the night came in the later stages of the fourth quarter and the Magic leading just 92-86. Redick stroked consecutive 3-pointers to boost the Magic’s lead to 98-86 and send the Bobcats into a timeout.
Seconds later, Redick darted in front of a Kemba Walker pass and converted a fastbreak layup to eclipse his previous career high of 29 points.
- The Magic shot the ball exceptionally well from the outside early in the game to blow out to a 17-point lead. Orlando hit seven of 11 3-pointers in the first quarter and nine of its first 15.
Redick made four of his five 3-point shots in the first half, while Anderson, Richardson and Nelson each drilled two threes in the first 24 minutes.
``Our game has changed,’’ Nelson said, referring to the Magic shooting more threes and relying less on post-up plays. ``Over the past two weeks, we’ve been without the most dominant player in the game, but we just have to stick together, help out defensively and play the right way.’’
- The injury bug bit the Magic again in the first quarter when Davis went down on a seemingly innocent play.
After setting a screen at the top of the key, Davis was jogging to the rim when he accidentally stepped on Byron Mullens’ foot and twisted his right ankle. Davis immediately went down in a heap, clutching at his leg.
X-rays were negative on the ankle, but Davis did not return to the game. He likely won’t play Thursday in Memphis or practice on Friday so as to fully heal up before the playoffs.
``There was definitely some worry when he went down,’’ Redick said. ``You immediately think to yourself, ``How are we going to go forward if he is out for an extended period of time?’ But it sounds like he’ll be back for this weekend. Hopefully he’ll have a quick recovery.’’
- Davis took the microphone before the game and addressed the sellout crowd on Fan Appreciation Night. ``Thanks for sticking with us through the tough times,’’ Davis told the crowd. ``I know that it’s been tough, but we play for you guys. We’re looking forward to the playoffs.’’
- Jason Richardson lost his cool in second quarter when he was accidentally hit in the face by Gerald Henderson’s hand. Richardson was chasing Henderson off a screen and as Henderson fell he flung his hand backwards. When it hit Richardson in the mouth, he stood over the Bobcats’ guard and yelled at him. He was whistled for a technical foul on the play.
- Because of the lockout-shortened season, the lag time between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs will be condensed as well. The Magic will fly from Memphis to Indianapolis Thursday night and likely hold some sort of light workout in Indy on Friday. They won’t find out when Game 1 will be played until Thursday night, and could be starting as soon as Thursday.
``It’s going to be tough, but basketball teams have to pick it up and help each other out. And hopefully we’ll get Big Baby back by then, too,’’ Richardson said. ``We have to do our jobs, step up the intensity level, do the little things and recover from not having guys here.’’
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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