The Orlando Magic are making a habit out of winning close games.
Although, the Magic are not playing nearly as well as they are capable, the ability to win close games on nights where you don’t have your best game is a trait that every great team possesses.
Six of Orlando’s 18 games have been decided by four points or less and they are 5-1 in such games, including two one-point wins.
“It’s great to win games when maybe it wasn’t the prettiest way to play,” Magic guard J.J. Redick said.
When you have as many scorers as the Magic do, it gives you a plethora of options down the stretch.
“It’s great to have a bunch of talent on the team,” Rashard Lewis said. “Because anyone can come up big at any given moment.”
After a victory over the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night, Lewis made a point of discussing the play of J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus and the big shots they made down the stretch.
It seems like none of the Magic players are afraid to step up and take a big shot in a clutch situation.
”I’ll be honest with you, I love being in games in the fourth quarter when your blood pressure grows from 160 to 400,” Pietrus said. “I love these types of games.”
Most of the Magic singled out Jameer Nelson as the catalyst for Orlando’s nine-point win over Miami last week (a game in which they trailed 88-87 in the fourth quarter).
“Well, one of my teammates came up and told me that he felt like it was time for me to score more,” Nelson explained. “We’ve got great guys on this team that you listen to them and it kind of popped into my head that I needed to.”
When your team has confidence in you, it can help take the late-game butterflies and nerves away when it comes to knocking down a big shot.
“We just have to police ourselves,” Lewis said. “We have to hold ourselves accountable and instead of coach sitting over there and telling us what to do each time, we have to tell each other what to do and pick up our energy level.”
“If we just stick together and play our game, everything will be great,” Pietrus added.
Although Nelson has been great, hitting two game-winners and “assisting” on another (he air-balled a shot against the Washington Wizards Saturday night but Dwight Howard caught the air ball and put it in off the glass), it’s not just about executing on the final possession or the way you execute offensively down the stretch; it’s about the way you defend and the Magic seemingly always turn up the intensity on the defensive end when they need to the most.
Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy often stresses the importance of finishing games on the defensive end and is always pleased when the Magic win the fourth quarter, which is something he’d like to see the team make a habit of.
“I thought the best thing was the way we finished the game,” Van Gundy said after Orlando’s victory over Detroit Tuesday night. “We did a good job defensively in the second half.”
Of course, Van Gundy would love to see the Magic turn up their intensity on the defensive end throughout the game, but he’s still pleased with the way the team is able to make adjustments throughout the game and slow opposing offenses late in games.
Still, the Magic don’t want to have to rely on making big shots late in games – they want to put inferior teams away earlier in games.
“I don’t want to say it’s a bad thing (playing in close games) because we’re getting a win,” Lewis said. “I think there are certain teams that we should be able to put away early.”
Of course, winning close games isn’t something new for the Magic.
“They’re (close games) going to add wins to wins column,” Redick explained. We were in a lot of close games last year and played in a lot the year before.”
The Magic hope to use their late game experience and success to help them execute down the stretch when they need to the most – in the postseason.
News & Notes
- The Magic outrebounded the Chicago Bulls 44-21 in a 107-78 victory Wednesday night. Magic Center Dwight Howard grabbed 12 rebounds while the Bulls big man Joakim Noah, who entered the game as the league-leader in rebounding at 13.2 per game, grabbed 0 in 25 minutes of play.
- Orlando grabbed the same number of offensive rebounds as Chicago did offensive rebounds (14).
- Under Van Gundy, the Magic have gone 54-16 in the months of October and November.
- In Orlando’s victory over the Detroit Pistons Tuesday night, they had to rally from a 12 point deficit, making it their second largest comeback of the season (they rallied from 13 down to defeat the Atlanta Hawks on November 8th).
- The Magic are now 13-1 when holding opponents to less than 100 points this season. Under Van Gundy, they are now 141-29.
- The Magic are now 4-1 on the second night of back-to-back games. Coincidentally, they are also 4-1 on the first night.
- The Magic will continue their road trip in Detroit against the Pistons Friday night.