Building sizable leads and winning home games haven’t been the problem for the Orlando Magic. Keeping their opponents from chipping away at those leads has been.
After nearly letting Chicago and Philadelphia erase substantial third-quarter deficits this week, the Magic will try to snap that disturbing pattern on Saturday night when they host the winless Washington Wizards.
Three days after the Bulls almost forced overtime after trailing Orlando by 17 in the third quarter, the Magic found themselves in a similar situation on Thursday as Philadelphia trimmed Orlando’s 23-point third-quarter lead to six with 8:37 left.
But the Magic, who have averaged just 20.8 points in the third quarter this season, won their third straight as Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu responded favorably to criticism from coach Stan Van Gundy following Monday’s 96-93 victory against the Bulls.
With four turnovers apiece against Chicago, Nelson and Turkoglu combined for four turnovers in the 98-88 win against Philadelphia.
“He was in attack mode all night,” Van Gundy said of Nelson, who had season-highs with 16 points and nine assists. “He made good plays on pick-and-rolls and that was key. That was the best game he’s played all year.”
Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu each had 20 points and eight rebounds. Turkoglu, singled out by Van Gundy on Monday for having sub-par conditioning, added three assists and two steals.
Turkoglu hit seven 3-pointers and scored a career-high 39 points against Washington last season in an 87-86 loss on March 19. He averaged only 16.0 points in the other three meetings—all wins for Orlando.
Dwight Howard had 14 points and a season-low eight rebounds against Philadelphia after playing only four minutes in the first half with foul trouble. He missed six of eight free throws and is shooting 23-of-52 from the foul line this season—a league-worst 44.2 percent.
Howard averaged just 11.5 points against Washington in 2007-08, although he sat the final three quarters in the season finale on April 16.
Tony Battie posted a season-best eight points and six rebounds on Thursday after scoring a combined nine points in the Magic’s first four games.
“At times in the first half without Dwight, we played the game extremely well,” Van Gundy said. “Tony gave us a huge lift.”
Washington could use a boost from anyone after losing 114-108 on Friday to the Knicks, falling to 0-4 for the second consecutive season. With the hope of sparking his squad, Washington coach Eddie Jordan mentioned last season’s 0-5 start to his team on Friday, but said, “It didn’t get done, so let’s see if we can go the other way, relax a little bit and go down to Florida.”
The Wizards haven’t experienced much of a Florida vacation recently, losing 10 of their last 13 games in Orlando.
Washington could soon go with a more youthful lineup after under performing starters Etan Thomas, DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels combined for just 14 points and seven rebounds against the Knicks. The trio all saw less court time than Nick Young, Juan Dixon and rookie JaVale McGee.
Young scored 16, Dixon had 11 assists and McGee posted his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“There’s a consideration of maybe you build from your youth group,” Jordan said. “We’ll see where that goes.”