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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