ORLANDO, Fla. — A painful playoffs for Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis is finally showing a little promise.
The Orlando Magic forwards have not only struggled with kinks in their jumpshots, they have also had injuries and family illnesses on their minds. So it was only fitting that they teamed up on the play that could change the series for the Magic against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Turkoglu hit a 3-pointer over Thaddeus Young with 1.1 seconds remaining Sunday after Lewis set a pick that forced the switch, evening the first-round series at two games apiece. The Magic hope that will be the confidence boost they need to get them out of their slumps when the best-of-seven series resumes tonight in Orlando for a pivotal Game 5.
“We got home court again, and we’re going to have some fun at home,” Turkoglu said. “It’s a totally new series now.”
Turkoglu has been limited in the playoffs because of a sprained left ankle, while Lewis has been dealing with serious illnesses to his 1-year-old daughter and brother and is still slowed by right knee tendinitis.
The pair had been uncharacteristically erratic until Game 4. They finally showed flashes of the players they were during the Magic’s 59-win regular season, when they lead the team in scoring behind center Dwight Howard. Turkoglu and Lewis combined to shoot 14-of-26 and each scored 17 points in Game 4.
Even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he’s been searching for answers to get those two back in rhythm.
“If I was one of you guys in the media criticizing the coach, my criticism would be directed at my inability to get quality shots for Hedo and Rashard,” Van Gundy said. “I haven’t been able to find other ways to get Hedo and Rashard going.”
Lewis said his daughter, Gianna, is recovering well after a virus that had doctors confused for about a month. She was in and out of hospitals with high fevers and rashes among other things, and Lewis said his brother is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
Add the pressure behind Lewis’ $118 million, six-year contract he signed in 2007 and this has been an especially difficult playoffs.
“Obviously, family is more important than the game of basketball,” Lewis said. “But we got through it, and it’s time to get back focusing on the game.”
That could be bad news for Philadelphia.
The Sixers are in the same position as they were a year ago, when they took a 2-1 series lead on Detroit before losing in six games. Two of the final three games — if necessary — are in Orlando.
Philadelphia coach Tony DiLeo has insisted this team is different, that it is a year better and wiser and will learn from the mistakes of the past.
“We’re confident. We’ve played four games and won two and could have won the other two games,” DiLeo said Monday in Philadelphia. “We’ve proven we can win in Orlando. Our team is going to battle to the end. We’re going down to Orlando with the mindset to win this game.”
The fact that the series is even close has put the pressure on the Magic.
Orlando began the playoffs considered to be among the contenders in the Eastern Conference, and the Sixers lost six of their last seven games entering the postseason. The teams have alternated wins so far.
The Sixers earned their victories on clutch shots at the end. Andre Iguodala swished a long jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining in Philadelphia’s 100-98 victory in Game 1. Young’s driving layup with 2 seconds left gave the Sixers a 96-94 win in Game 3.
Still, Philadelphia has to prove it can keep up the pace for a full series.
“We have a little bit more experience this year,” Sixers guard Louis Williams said. “Last year, guys were a little shell-shocked being 2-2. Right now, we are in a 0-0 series going back to Orlando. People are saying that Orlando is head-over-heels better than us. We still have an opportunity to win this series just like they do. We look forward to the challenge.”