Orlando Magic Win Big… and Should Savor the Taste of Victory While They Still Can

This is the Orlando Magic mascot. Seriously.It took over five years, but the tenth time was finally the charm for the Orlando Magic.

After dropping nine straight playoff games to the Detroit Pistons dating back to April of 2003, the Magic finally got a win in besting Detroit 111-86 in front of their home fans in Game 3. Dwight Howard got it done on both ends (20 points, 12 boards, 6 blocks), Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu combined for 8 triples, and as a team held the Pistons to just 40% shooting.

It all added up to be the Pistons’ biggest loss of the postseason thus far. And, still, I can’t say that I’m especially impressed by the Orlando Magic or their 25-point victory.

As I mentioned in the Pistons-Magic playoff preview, Orlando lives and dies by the longball. During the regular season they averaged more attempts per game (25.3) than anyone in the league save for the Golden State Warriors—and they made a lot of ’em too, sinking their triple tries as a team at a 38% clip and 9.8 makes/per. Clearly they’re one of the NBA’s most capable squads from behind the arc. The three-point shot is a very real weapon for them and one they should capitalize on as much as possible.

Orlando Magic Mascot Photo Credit: Icon SMI

A team built so heavily around the three-pointer, however, will usually not go far in the postseason; the same will be true this year for these Orlando Magic.

Tonight, those shots were falling: the Magic went 11-24 on their triples, the second straight game in this series they’ve hit that number of makes. Lewis was especially deadly in going 5-6 on his attempts. Great. Fantastic. It’s still not going to be enough.

More on the Magic’s futile quest to eliminate the Pistons after the jump…

Tonight, Superman Howard had by far his best game thus far against the Pistons, limiting his turnovers to “just” three, playing with confidence on the blocks and not being deterred by a few bricks or the Pistons’ long arms and quick hands. He was a force on defense and logged 44+ minutes for the second consecutive game. (It’ll be interesting to see if/when he starts wearing down from the heavy floor time.) He’ll have to have nights like this every game for the rest of the series for his team to have a chance to rack up three more wins… and it still might not be enough.

All in all, the Orlando Magic have played about as good as they can these last two games against the Detroit Pistons, yet they walk away with only one win. For all the unnecessary hullabaloo surrounding the shot-clock gaffe in Game 3 that gave Chauncey Billups what should have been a waived-off three-pointer, anyone who really watched the game knows the outcome was not decided on that one play. The Magic only stayed in Game 2 by somewhat miraculously sinking 7 straight threes in the third quarter; otherwise, it would have been another blowout.

Tonight, the Pistons lost All-Star PG Chauncey Billups just 3 minutes into the game after he accidentally busted into a pirouette, did the splits, and strained his hamstring (he’s considered day-to-day at this point). Then, All-Star PF Rasheed Wallace found himself in (very) early foul trouble and rode the pine for much of the 2nd quarter and most of the 3rd, playing just under 28 minutes on the game. After averaging 11.5 points over the first two games, Jason Maxiell was held scoreless. And with reserve guards Juan Dixon and Lindsey Hunter on the inactive list, rookie Rodney Stuckey was the only remaining point guard.

And, still, the Pistons whittled the Magic’s lead down to just 3 points by the end of the 3rd quarter. Orlando rattled off a 9-0 run to the start the 4th, however, and the Pistons never recovered.

All the credit in the world to Orlando for their Game 3 win. They deserved it. They hustled, never played from behind, and didn’t waver during repeated runs by the Pistons. And honestly, they could very well take Game 4, too, especially if Billups doesn’t play or is at much less than 100%. I’m not convinced they will though. And I’m not convinced they’ll win another game in the 2008 playoffs, period.

(By the way, get your Orlando Magic team mascot hat while you still can; they’re absolutely flying off the NBA Store shelves.)

Tags: Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic, Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace


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