Magic 88, Wizards 78
Down 23 points, shots routinely clanging, and their defense struggling, the final 18 minutes of tonight's game against the Orlando Magic seemed like nothing more than garbage time for the Washington Wizards. Then, in a whirling fourth quarter, the Wizards pulled within five with under three minutes left.
However, swingmen Mike Miller and Tracy McGrady made back-to-back baskets down the stretch, allowing the Magic to finally put Washington away, 88-78, tonight before a sellout crowd of 17,283 at TD Waterhouse Centre.
Washington (8-11) saw its two-game winning streak end; Orlando (12-8) won for the fifth time in six games.
"The second quarter is where they got some baskets going and from there it was playing catch-up," said Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse (team-high 23 points). "We played catch-up the rest of the way. Fortunately we came at them and fought in the second half but it seemed like we could never get under eight. We'd get it there, close it down, they would make a basket. We finally cut it to five and I think we just ran out of gas."
The Wizards were "seduced" into playing at a fast tempo early, Wizards Coach Doug Collins said. They managed to trade baskets with the Magic, which played at breakneck speed on both ends. However, in the second quarter Washington's shots stopped falling and the Magic was able to get out in transition.
The Wizards couldn't keep up and were routinely caught with unfavorable numbers, allowing Orlando to score with relative ease. The Magic shot 45 percent, but connected on 54 percent in the first half, when it built a 49-35 halftime lead. The Wizards scored 11 second-quarter points.
Washington's woeful point total came despite 46 shots, which was way too many, Collins said, especially since most of them came on long jumpers after players broke off sets. The missed perimeter shots allowed Orlando to get out on the fast break, where it outscored the Wizards 19-8.
"At the end of the first quarter they had 29 points and I said, 'Guys, we can't win a 130-point game,' " Collins said. "The ball stuck and didn't move. I think we got seduced into that early because we got some quick baskets. Once we got tired, we got better. We started getting at a tempo we could play at."
McGrady led all scorers with 27 points, including Orlando's final 10 of the first half. He added eight in the fourth quarter, including a back-breaking 19-footer that made the score 84-75 with 1 minutes 36 second remaining.
Miller scored 12 of his 22 points in the second half. Center Shawn Kemp scored a season-high 15 points. Forward Grant Hill had just five points on 2-of-8 shooting, but added a team-high 10 rebounds.
Michael Jordan had 16 points (and six rebounds) for the Wizards on 7-of-21 shooting. Guard Larry Hughes, who played well the past three games, scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Forward Christian Laettner added 11 points.
A major weakness for Washington was its bench production, which accounted for just six points, a season low.
"They dictated the tempo," Stackhouse said. "After a while we settled down and got it to a pace of our liking."
The Wizards finished the third quarter with a 9-1 run to pull to 67-54 entering the fourth quarter. They cut it to 69-62 on a layup by Hughes with 8:32 remaining. The Magic built its lead back to 12 but a 9-2 run, capped by a spectacular layup by Stackhouse, who was falling after being fouled, made the score 80-75 with 2:49 left.
Miller answered with a reverse layup then Stackhouse missed a three-pointer that led to McGrady's game-icing jumper.
"I expected them to make a run at some point," Magic Coach Doc Rivers said. "There was a point, though, I've got to be honest, I was thinking, 'Maybe there is more than a run coming here.' It really looked like that. Unfortunately, I think out guys must have thought that also. It was just one of those games."