By John Denton March 14, 2014
ORLANDO – Poised to potentially end an extended losing streak, Orlando lost a six-point lead in the final minute of regulation and then fell 105-101 in a back-and-forth overtime to the Washington Wizards.
Here are five takeaways from Friday’s game at the Amway Center:
KEY MOMENT OF THE GAME: With Orlando leading 97-96 in overtime, 6-foot Magic guard Jameer Nelson stole a pass and raced down the floor for what looked to be a layup that would put it up by three points. However, Washington guard Bradley Beal never gave up on the play and swatted Nelson’s layup attempt off the backboard.
Nelson’s inability to dunk cost him on the play and he never had a chance of scoring the layup because of Beal’s speed and 5-inch height advantage.
``That was just a hustle play, one that we definitely needed,’’ said Beal, a University of Florida product. ``I was timing it with my steps; I was going to try to block it. (Nelson) had a head start on me; I guess I kind of baited him into it, and I was able to jump up and get it before it was a goal-tend.’’
Beal’s block jump-started a Washington fast break the other direction and it ended with Trevor Ariza’s fourth 3-pointer of the night. So instead of the Magic having a three-point advantage, the killer sequence put them in a two-point hole.
``Give them credit both ways for Ariza making the shot and Beal chasing it down,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``Good stop by us and steal by Jameer to get an opportunity for us to get a bucket, but you credit (Beal) for tracking it down and making a block.’’
KEY MOMENT OF THE GAME, PART II: Orlando led 85-79 with a minute to play, but John Wall got the Wizards even by drilling a three off an offensive rebound, making two of three free throws and connecting on a game-tying shot with 10.6 seconds left to play.
The critical moment for the Magic came next when they put the ball in the hands of rookie guard Victor Oladipo and asked him to make a play. And that was the right thing to do considering that Oladipo had the hot hand late in the game, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Ideally, Oladipo would have used his blinding quickness to attack the paint and either score at the rim or get a foul call from officials. However, Oladipo let much of the time run off the clock and then settled for a contested 28-foot jump shot over the long-armed Ariza. Predictably, it was way long and hit off the back of the rim and backboard.
``I would have changed that, but again I know it sounds like I’ve been saying it a lot, but I need to learn how to make better plays in situations like that, especially if (Vaughn) is trusting me and putting the ball in my hands,’’ Oladipo said. ``I missed the shot. Maybe I should’ve gotten a better shot, but I just have to keep shooting it with confidence.’’
Said Vaughn: ``We wanted to put the ball in Vic’s hands and it was good defense by Ariza. I think overall we probably would’ve like a little bit more attack and a little bit more aggression to see if the referees will call a foul or not. That’s part of us growing. We’ll put Vic in that position again and we’ll watch film together and we’ll grow from this.’’
QUOTABLE: Magic power forward Tobias Harris, who had 21 points and a key put-back basket late in regulation to put Orlando up by six points, didn’t want to hear anything about a moral victory on Friday night. Harris was upset that the Magic couldn’t hold onto two late leads and celebrate beating a team that had defeated them twice earlier this season.
``There are two things, you either win or you lose,’’ Harris said. ``Tonight we lost. It was a good effort, but at the end of the day when you look at our schedule and the calendar you see an `L’ next to Orlando Magic versus the Washington Wizards. The next game we have to improve. We take what we can from the game and we learn from it.’’
TELLING STAT: For the game, Orlando made eight of 10 free throws. But for much of the night it looked like the Magic were on the verge of making some NBA and team history.
Orlando didn’t attempt a free throw in the first quarter and had just two attempts (with no makes) in the game’s first 41 minutes. To make matters worse, one of those free throw attempts came on a John Wall technical foul, and veteran point guard Jameer Nelson misfired.
Only one team in NBA history – the 1996 Toronto Raptors – have ever played a NBA game without making a free throw. The Magic low for free throws made in a game is three, set by last season’s squad in April of 2013. The 2013 Magic also hold the team record for fewest free throw attempts in a game with five.
The Magic escaped setting franchise records for fewest free throw makes and attempts late in the fourth quarter when Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris calmly connected on four free throws.
MEMORIES OF DARRELL: Long before he became a coach, Vaughn played 12 years in the NBA as a point guard. He has many fond memories of ``Legends Night’’ honoree Darrell Armstrong, both as an opponent and as a teammate. Vaughn played for the Magic during the 2002-03 season, and Armstrong would playfully call him ``Jack’’ instead of ``Jacque.’’
Vaughn said his memories of Armstrong are always of his competitive nature in practice and games.
``It wasn’t just the chocolate, coffee and sugar before games; he genuinely loved playing the game of basketball,’’ Vaughn said, referring to Armstrong’s pregame and halftime snacks to fuel his famed energy. ``He was a competitive guy and I loved practicing with him and against him. … I’m a big fan. His story (of making the NBA despite not being drafted) should be told to a lot of people – how he got into the league, his rout, where he played before he got into the league and how he survived. There should be one of those (ESPN) 30 for 30s on Darrell.’’