The Orlando Magic were fresh off their drubbing of the Cavaliers Sunday night to face a suddenly hot Memphis Grizzlies team in the land of Elvis Monday night. Watching this game from start to finish showed how good Orlando can be when they play defense and how bad they can be when they don’t. The Magic cut a 12 point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 96-96 but ultimately came up short in a 100-97 loss to Memphis.
The first quarter was won by the Magic as they finally came out with energy against a quality opponent. Jason Richardson and Dwight Howard were perfect from the field in the quarter both finishing 4-4. It looked as if Orlando was going to be in for a great night as the offense flowed and the Magic took at 28-21 lead into the 2nd quarter. The Grizzlies bench entered the 2nd period and were sparked by the play of Darrel Arthur and Tony Allen. Arthur showed a range that I nor the Magic knew he was capable of as he rained in 4 jumpers from 20 feet finishing the quarter with 10 points. Still Howard and Richardson paced the Magic combining for 27 points at half time and the Magic led 58-54. The writing was on the wall however as the Grizzlies shot a miraculous 63% in the first half as Arthur, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each had 10 points at half time.
The 3rd quarter opened just how the 2nd ended. Memphis continued to knock down shots and it became apparent that the tide was turning. An 11-4 run midway through the 3rd gave the Grizzlies a 72-66 lead, leaving Orlando searching for answers. Howard was once again alone in the fight as Hedo Turkgolu stayed ice cold, and Richardson jumpers began to fall short. As if that was not trouble enough, Brandon Bass hit a jumper over Zach Randolph but turned his ankle on the landing. He was helped off by teammates and did not return. Orlando was already short personnel with J.J. Redick nursing a shoulder injury. Conley (who finished with 26pts, 11ast, and 4 threes) kept the Memphis offense on task with the help of Randolph, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol. The Magic grew frustrated and were outscored 32-16 in the quarter trailing 82-74 entering the final frame.
The Grizzlies got the lead to as large as 12 and seemed to be in complete control. Arenas, who received a quick hook in the first half, started the 4th quarter and sparked an Orlando comeback. He wisely began to post up the smaller Conley and operate the offense from the block. He was able to turn and score over Conley as well as find Howard for multiple dunks that silenced the Memphis crowd as they saw the lead shrink. Turkgolu tied the game at 96 after hitting two free throws only to see Gasol break the tie on an uncontested dunk off a Conley feed. Arenas, who has been atrocious from the free throw line since coming to Orlando, was fouled with a chance to tie the game but only managed one of two. Turkgolu later missed a wide open 3 with the Magic still down 97-98. Ryan Anderson grabbed the offensive board but Conley snuck in for a steal and was fouled with 5.5 seconds left. By this time Howard, who was charged with some questionable offensive fouls, had all he could stand and mouthed off to the refs receiving an untimely technical. Z BO knocked the technical down setting up Conley to make one of two free throws pushing the lead to 3. Richardson’s desperation three pointer at the buzzer drew nothing but backboard and the comeback proved to be ill fated.
Nelson did not play in the fourth quarter as he watched Arenas operate the offense. Howard had 7 turnovers but still managed 25 points and 14 rebounds. Richardson only managed 4 points after the break while Turkgolu continued to struggle. The Magic while still very dangerous are now lacking an identity offensively and defensively. If Bass is going to miss time the need to add another big becomes dire as Howard and Ryan Anderson will not be able to do it by themselves. The rival Heat are next on the schedule Thursday night and I will be there live to bring you coverage. Hopefully the two days off will prove to be enough for Bass and Redick to rejoin the lineup. Stay tuned!
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com