“A gutsy win!” he told Glen Davis.
This victory meant so much because the Orlando Magic had overcome so much.
“I told them that’s the best one of the entire season,” Van Gundy said.
They had to scratch and claw for it.
Howard played almost the entire second half despite back spasms, and he scored 20 points and collected a game-high 22 rebounds.
Davis, who started in place of injured power forward Ryan Anderson, scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
“That was the best I felt after a win in a long time,” Redick said. “Seriously, I was screaming on my way back to the locker room.”
The Magic desperately needed a win.
They ended a five-game game losing streak and avoided their first six-game losing streak since the 2005-06 season.
They now have something positive to talk about after one of the most turbulent episodes of their roller-coaster season. On Thursday, in answering a direct question, Van Gundy ignited a controversy when he told reporters that he knew that Howard wanted him fired.
“As far as just fighting for a win and executing down the stretch and doing what we had to do, yeah, I haven’t felt better about our team all year,” Van Gundy said. “But the big thing is they’ve been through a lot. They’ve got two starters out, another rotation guy [Quentin Richardson] out. We’ve had, obviously — and I added to it — a tumultuous week, and they fought for each other.”
Howard was center stage Saturday.
He aggravated his lower back when he went for a loose ball at the end of the first half, and he lay on the basketball court stomach-down for a few seconds after pain shot through his back.
When the team emerged from the locker room after halftime, Howard lay on his back at midcourt as the team’s physical therapist, Ed Manalo, stretched him, lifting Howard's legs almost perpendicular to the floor.
“I gave everything I had,” Howard said. “That’s what we’ve all got to do every night. Despite everything that happens around us, when we step on the court we’ve got to just give everything we’ve got.”
There were moments when it looked like the Magic (33-23) were about to fold against the Sixers (29-26).
From the final minute of the first quarter to deep in the second quarter, Philadelphia went on a 24-4 run as Orlando went cold offensively and could not stop Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks.
Williams and Meeks combined for 18 points during the stretch, and Philly surged to a 38-28 lead with 4:52 remaining in the first half.
The Magic came out of an official timeout with a play for Redick, who came off a screen to sink a 21-foot jumper. After Andre Iguodala followed on the Sixers’ ensuing possession by missing a jumper, Redick sank a 20-foot jumper.
“One of the things that I talked about with Dwight was that our spirit has been kind of crushed a little bit these past five games,” Redick said. “We had to get that spirit back, and I think we did that.”
Davis almost single-handedly kept the Magic alive in the third quarter by scoring 15 of his 23 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
In the fourth, Philly came back from an eight-point deficit to tie the score 73-73, but Redick scored nine of the Magic’s next 11 points.
And Howard secured the win.
He hit two free throws with 2:05 remaining to give Orlando an 84-80 lead, one more with 1:39 left and one more with 1:09 left to put Orlando up 86-80.
“I just think our effort, our energy was where it needed to be the whole game,” Howard said. “We just kept believing that we were going to make the next shot and was going to get a stop every time down. So it was a great win for our team.”
Howard and Van Gundy agreed on that.
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