With a roster that has seemingly gotten thinner by the game over the past month, no wins have come easy for the Orlando Magic down the stretch.
It’s why the Magic expected to get a strong effort from a woeful Charlotte Bobcats team that came in battling against all-time NBA futility.
The Bobcats hung tough, but the Magic made just shots from beyond the arc to hold on for a 102-95 victory Wednesday night, Charlotte’s 22nd consecutive loss.
J.J. Redick had six 3-pointers and scored a career-high 31 points as the Magic snapped a three-game losing streak and more importantly secured the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Ryan Anderson added 24 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Richardson had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who lost forward Glen Davis to a sprained right ankle. He is the latest injury to strike the Magic’s roster and drain an already shallow pool of Orlando big men following Dwight Howard’s season-ending back surgery last week. Davis limped off the court, though initial X-rays taken on the ankle in the locker room were negative. His status is day-to-day.
”Obviously, it was good for us,” Redick said. ”There was definitely some worry (about Davis). You immediately think to yourself `How are we going to go forward if he’s out for an extended period of time?’ But it sounds like he’ll be back this weekend. Hopefully he’ll have a great recovery.”
Richardson said while it was nice to lock up a first-round matchup with Indiana, it wasn’t at all their focus going into the game.
”We just wanted to play and wanted to win a game,” Richardson said. ”We haven’t won in a while, had some tough games and a tough road trip. I don’t think anybody was thinking about what was going on with the playoffs. We just wanted to win.”
D.J. Augustin led the Bobcats with 23 points, while Gerald Henderson had 17 and Derrick Brown 16.
Charlotte (7-58) heads into its season finale on Thursday needing to beat New York to avoid the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The longest losing streak in NBA history was the 26 games by Cleveland last season. Should the Bobcats lose their finale against the Knicks, their 7-59 record and .106 winning percentage would eclipse the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers and their mark at .110, when they went 9-73.
”Nobody in here is used to losing like we have lost this year,” Henderson said. ”It just kind of humbles you and teaches you a lot about what it takes to be successful in this game. It also teaches you what it takes to have a good team in the NBA. It’s a learning process and hopefully we will come out with a win tomorrow.”
Bobcats coach Paul Silas said he was proud of his team’s effort.
”I was really happy with the way we played,” he said. ”We just came up a little short, but we gave it our all.”
The Magic were active early offensively and beginning to cruise late in the first quarter when Davis stepped on Byron Mullens’ foot and rolled his ankle.
The injury couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time for Orlando, which has seen starters Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) and Howard both undergo surgery in the past month.
Howard, of course, is gone for the rest of the season as he continues rehabilitation in California. Turkoglu may return as early as Thursday’s regular-season finale against Memphis and be ready for the postseason, but that is still to be determined.
The Bobcats used the moment as a spark and rallied after Davis’ injury to cut what was a 17-point first-half deficit to 67-66 late in the third quarter.
Orlando got it back up to 10 points entering the fourth quarter before seeing one final push by Charlotte.
It was 89-84 when Henderson was whistled for his fifth personal foul and forced to the bench with just over 6 minutes to play. That was immediately followed by Richardson’s third 3-pointer of the game to give the Magic a little more breathing room.
A 3 a few possessions later by Redick made it 95-86 and following a Charlotte miss Redick nailed his final 3 of the game to push the lead back to 12 points with 4:26 to go.
The Magic kept around a 15-point lead throughout the first half before seeing the Bobcats close the gap to 10 at the break.
Orlando pulled away early by connecting on 10 of its 22 3-point attempts in the half, led by Redick’s five 3s and 16 points. Anderson added 14 points and Jameer Nelson eight points and seven assists.
”Basketball is a game of runs. They made their run and we made ours,” Nelson said. ”We’re very fortunate to come out with a victory.”
Said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: ”It just keeps getting crazier by the day. … It was a good win even though the team you’re playing is 50 games under .500.”
Notes: The loss was Charlotte’s 11th straight on the road. … Brown left the game with a sprained right ankle in the fourth quarter. … The Magic improved to 25-5 when scoring 100 or more points. … Turkoglu has been cleared for contact by doctors after three weeks of rehab following surgery to repair facial fractures. He wore a new protective mask during the Magic’s morning walkthrough, but said it bothered him and needed to be adjusted before his return to action.