MILWAUKEE — On a night the Orlando Magic qualified for the playoffs, the team showed it's not ready for the playoffs, at least not yet.
The Magic turned the ball over and over again on Wednesday. They missed too many free throws. They allowed their opponent to gather offensive rebounds.
No wonder the Magic barely eked out a 93-89 overtime win over the undermanned, poorly rested and struggling Milwaukee Bucks.
"It's things we need to work on and correct," Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said.
"The fact that the game's close? That doesn't mean anything to me. But it's the problems we're having and our inability to take care of the ball foremost among them that's really causing me concern. It's going to be very hard to win playoff games continuing to turn the ball over 18 or 19 times every night. We just don't seem to have any value on taking care the ball."
A 31-point, 22-rebound performance by Dwight Howard saved the Magic from themselves.
So did Hedo Turkoglu, who scored eight of his 19 points in overtime, including a jumper from in front of the Milwaukee bench that put Orlando ahead for good with one minute remaining in the extra period.
"We didn't imagine playing in overtime tonight," Turkoglu said. "They kind of played harder than us. They had a lot of movement and a lot of energy out there, so we have to give them credit. But in the end, we just knew how to execute better, make some big plays and make some big shots and put the game away."
Still, the Magic looked anything but playoff-ready against a Bucks team that had played — and lost big — the night before and was missing starting center Andrew Bogut because of a migraine headache.
Orlando turned the ball over 19 times, allowed a 14-point lead to slip away and permitted the Bucks to gather 11 offensive rebounds.
The Magic also made a few head-scratching plays down the stretch.
With 4.3 seconds left in regulation and the Magic clinging to a 79-76 lead, co-captain Jameer Nelson fouled Brandon Jennings just as Jennings lined up for a 3-pointer. Nelson and Van Gundy immediately contended, perhaps accurately, that the foul occurred before Jennings began his shot. Whether the call was right or wrong, Jennings made all three of his ensuing foul shots to even the score.
In overtime, with Orlando ahead 85-81, Nelson fouled Jennings again as Jennings swished a 3-pointer. Jennings' ensuing foul shot completed a four-point play and tied the score at 85 with 1:47 remaining in the extra period.
Howard responded on the Magic's ensuing possession, slamming home a dunk off a pass from Ryan Anderson. After Earl Barron countered with a layup, Turkoglu made his jumper to put the Magic ahead. A short while later, Jameer Nelson hit a 20-foot jumper of his own to provide some critical breathing room.
"The only thing that matters is that we got a win," Howard said. "No matter how the game played out, we got a win. Are we satisfied with the way we won the game? No. But we won the game. That's all that matters."
Howard turned the ball over five times, and each of his fellow starters had two turnovers apiece.
The Magic now have committed at least 18 turnovers in four of their last six games.
They withstood those miscues against the Bucks, but playoff-caliber teams such as the Celtics, the Chicago Bulls, the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks likely would make the Magic pay for all of those mistakes.
Howard also continued his up-and-down ways from the free-throw line, making just 13 of the 24 foul shots he attempted.
"Look, he's a great player," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "I thought the guys were pretty smart about it and tried to hang in. Obviously, he's got everybody overmatched with his strength and athleticism. We tried to hold our ground. We tried to foul at pretty smart times."
Howard better be prepared for similar treatment in potential playoff series against the Bulls, Celtics, Hawks or Heat. All of those teams have enough depth at the center position to repeatedly force Howard to the free-throw line.
Perhaps worst of all on Wednesday, the Magic (43-26) once again played down to their competition. They allowed a Bucks (26-41) team that entered the night ranked last in the NBA in points per game and field-goal percentage to hang around.
Howard warned his teammates before tipoff not to fall into the trap of relaxing.
"That's what we did," he said afterward.
At least the Magic have plenty of time to correct their ways.
Thirteen games and four full weeks remain in their regular season.
"I'm just happy we got out with the win," Van Gundy said.
"I think it points up again the same problems now. These aren't different things. We've got to rebound better, which we did at the end of the game but we didn't throughout the game. And we've got to start taking care of the ball. If that [turnover] number's going to be 17, 18, 19 every night, then we're not going anywhere at playoff time. We're just not."
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