Doc Rivers half-jokingly referred to Orlando's matchup with the talented Portland Trail Blazers as "the Dream Team against Uruguay."
"On paper they should have won by 40. Fortunately, you have to play the game," the first-year coach said after Rasheed Wallace's turnaround, 10-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds left gave the Blazers an 81-79 victory Wednesday night.
"You look at them, and look at us, and think about moral victories," Rivers added. "But that's not what we're selling."
Chris Gatling led Orlando with 21 points, but missed a baseline jumper that would have put the Magic ahead in the final minute. Scottie Pippen rebounded the miss with 21.7 seconds left, and the Blazers called timeout and set up the winning play. Wallace hit his shot over Ben Wallace and Tariq Abdul-Wahad.
"It was just a regular postup shot," Rasheed Wallace said. "That's all. Nothing too spectcular."
Orlando squandered its last opportunity when Monty Williams' inbounds pass, intended for Gatling, was stolen. But Rivers said he couldn't fault his team's play in the closing seconds.
"We made them take the exact shot we wanted," the Orlando coach said. "The difference is they made their fadeaway, and we didn't."
The Magic led 45-38 at the half, despite shooting 35 percent. Gatling was the reason, coming off the bench to make all six of his shots from the field and going 5-for-5 from the foul line to score 17 points.
The Blazers, coming off a victory over Miami in a matchup of the teams with the league's best records the previous night, missed eight of their first 11 shots and didn't recover until Sabonis made his clutch 3-pointer and Smith followed with a layup to give Portland its first lead, 77-76, with just under three minutes to go.
Pippen, who was not on the floor for the play that produced the winning basket, scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting. Darrell Armstrong had 13 points for Orlando, but only made 3 of 12 shots.
"We just gutted it out," said Pippen, who wasn't included in the winning play because he hadn't been shooting well. "You have to give credit to Orlando. I think Doc is doing a real good job, keeping those guys inspired and making them work hard."
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