Magic top 76ers, break record in arena’s finale
By ANTONIO GONZALEZ
Associated Press Writer
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Not one to soak in a moment, even Stan Van Gundy couldn’t sweep history aside.
In a rare step for the live-and-die-with-every-play coach, Van Gundy stood at the center of the Orlando Magic’s locker room and thanked his players for a “great” regular season that was capped with some momentous milestones.
Now the playoffs await.
Jameer Nelson had 21 points, Vince Carter scored 17 and the Magic broke the single-season record for 3-pointers made in their 125-111 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
“I know it doesn’t mean anything going forward into the playoffs, but I can’t just discount 6 1/2 months of work that these guys have put in and say it doesn’t mean anything,” Van Gundy said. “It means a helluva lot.”
It was a truly Magic night.
They finished with 841 from beyond the arc, the NBA’s second-best record and closed the last regular-season game at Amway Arena in style. Fans gave Orlando a standing ovation in the final minute, and streamers flowed down to the court after the buzzer.
“Even a pat on the back from Stan,” Magic forward Matt Barnes said. “I don’t even know what that’s like.”
The 76ers were merely spectators.
Marreese Speights’ 23 points capped a sorry Sixers season and perhaps the last game in Eddie Jordan’s tenure as coach. Philadelphia ended with a 27-55 record and has nothing but an offseason of big decisions ahead.
“I’m humbled that among a lot of things we looked forward to a very successful season, successful only in the fact that we got through 82 games with a lot of good work ethic and growth,” said Jordan, adding he won’t fret over his job security.
The milestones for the Magic were almost too many to count.
They passed the 2005-06 Phoenix Suns’ record of 837 3-pointers in a season. They clinched the second-best record (59-23) behind Cleveland to give them home-court advantage if they reach the NBA finals, and they played the last regular-season game in the only arena they’ve known for 21 years. The Magic move into the new Amway Center next season.
Howard also cemented his status as the only player to lead the league in blocks (2.92) and rebounds (13.8) in the same season twice – let alone in consecutive years – to make him the front-runner for back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year awards. Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace each led the league in those categories once in the same season.
“Everybody in this locker room looks for me to be a leader,” Howard said. “When they see I’m serious about dominating, they get serious, too.”
This was a night Orlando didn’t want to waste.
The Magic shot 83 percent in the first quarter, made eight 3-pointers by the half – eclipsing the record on Carter’s shot in the closing seconds of the second quarter – took a 27-point lead in the third quarter and cruised to victory.
Orlando has won 20 of its last 23 games, entering the playoffs against Charlotte this weekend as one of the hottest teams.
“It’s not like we’re coming out in these games and screwing around and winning by four or six,” Van Gundy said. “The second half of the year, when we’ve had teams that we’re supposed to beat, we’ve drilled them.”
The Sixers were merely a footnote.
Criticized by fans and media from the day he arrived last year, Jordan walked off the court perhaps for the final time as Philadelphia’s coach. There has been much speculation over the last two months that he’ll be fired once the season is over.
“Certainly, I will be judged on the record,” Jordan said. “On that alone, I don’t know. That’s for other people to decide.”
The Sixers were expected to be at least a playoff team this year. Instead, it was a miserable season filled with injuries and inconsistencies. Philadelphia was the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed a year ago, eliminated in the first round by the Magic in six games.
The Sixers started this season with a loss in Orlando. The Magic made sure it ended the same way.
NOTES: Carter took the microphone before the game and thanked fans for their support this season on behalf of the team. “It’s been a wonderful season,” Carter said. “We’ve got 16 more to go.” … Howard announced earlier Wednesday that he has started a fund for at-risk children around the world, beginning with a $100,000 donation for young earthquake victims in Haiti. The Dwight Howard Fund was helped formed with teammate Adonal Foyle.
Updated April 14, 2010