Orlando Magic White, a team full of free-agent and Development League hopefuls, saw its dream of a perfect week and an unlikely championship come to an end in heartbreaking, sudden-death fashion on Friday.
When point guard Russ Smith flipped in an off-balanced, left-handed hook shot in the second overtime period it gave Memphis a 75-73 defeat of Magic White and the championship of the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League.
Per league rules, games that go into a second overtime period are decided in sudden-death fashion. Smith, one of the standouts for the week for his fearless play, improvised on the game-winner and converted the shot over the outstretched arm of 6-foot-11 center Keith Benson. It was the second sudden-death game-winner of the week for Smith and Memphis (5-0), who beat Magic Blue in 2 OTs on Tuesday.
``This meant a lot to us because we got to (the summer league championship game) last year and lost,'' said Memphis guard Jordan Adams, who had 12 points and four rebounds. ``We wanted to play Grizzlies basketball, defend and be physical and share the ball. ... Everybody is out here fighting for a job and an opportunity. Stuff on offense was taken away, but we looked for our playmakers and Russ stepped up big for us.''
The ending was especially frustrating for Magic White (4-1), which had become the story of the week in Orlando for routing its first four foes by a combined 40 points. Chris Singleton (16 points and four steals) and Benson (16 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks) were the only members of Magic
White with previous NBA experience, so the hungry group was hopeful of showing that it could play at the highest level and win the Summer League crown.
``It just (stinks) because we worked so hard and had a pretty good lead going into the fourth quarter and then both sides just got sloppy turning the ball over,'' said Singleton, who averaged 8.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in five games. ``We were thrown together as a team and counted out, but we're just like all of these other guys trying to make a team. We put it all on the line and just fell short today.''
Magic White led by as much as 10 points in the second half and had a 73-69 lead with 80 seconds left in regulation. Orlando appeared to have put itself in position to win the game with 9.9 seconds left in the first overtime when point guard Keith Appling converted a lefty layup. However, referees called the guard for a charge and upheld the call after a replay to see if Memphis forward Jarnell Stokes cleared the restricted area in the lane.
Magic White's resilience was on display all day as it fell behind 7-0 at the start and it trailed 24-8 just minutes into the second quarter. But the Magic clamped down defensively and took a 32-31 lead with 2 minutes left in the first half. Magic White had a series of bad breaks go against them late in the half as a Benson basket was wiped out because a replay showed it was released after the shot clock expired and Smith beat the buzzer with a 24-foot shot that rattled out, bounced off the top of the backboard and fell in the hoop.
Regardless of the final outcome, White coach Bill Peterson -- Orlando's D-League coach in Erie, Pa. -- took great pride in how well his team performed all week.
``We didn't execute at the end as well as we needed to to win the basketball game, but the effort, passion and energy that we played with all week was really good,'' Peterson said. ``I'm just really proud. I told (the team) that I wish my team in Erie would scrap and fight like this. We got down 20-4 and everybody else could have quit on us, but we got the lead and went up double digits in the second half. It showed the resilience that we had to keep fighting. They were like that all week and it was fun.''
Memphis' Smith, a 6-foot, 165-pounder, was the 47th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. On Friday, he had 15 points, nine assists and three steals. He finished the week averaging 14.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 steals in five games (four starts).
Appling, who is hoping to earn an invite to the Magic's NBA training camp as a third point guard option, had 15 points, six assists and two steals on Friday. After spending all last season starring at Orlando's D-League affiliate in Erie, Pa., Appling was Magic White's top player all week by averaging 15.6 points, 3.0 assists and three steals.
Peterson, who has an extensive background as a NBA assistant and development coach, said that players such as Appling, Benson and Singleton played well enough this week to get invites to NBA training camps in October.
``There are three or four of the guys on our team who could easily be on another NBA roster, but they just need another opportunity,'' Peterson said. ``Hopefully this showing will give them another opportunity. I had (NBA executives and scouts) come up to me throughout the week and say, `Tell me about Chris Singleton. I didn't know he played like that. Or I'm surprised how he played.' But our entire group was really good for being together such a short period of time.''
Memphis' Adams was highly complimentary of the way Magic White became the Cinderella story of the Summer League. Peterson said that his team's willingness to play together is an example to others of what can be accomplished through unity.
``It shows you when you get a group with high character and they are willing to do what you ask them to do as a coach, you can have great things happen,'' Peterson said. ``These guys came in here just wanting a shot to get into a vet camp or an opportunity to play with a better team overseas. If we were 0-5, there wouldn't be anybody talking to me or talking to them. But we were 4-0, we beat the other Magic team when we scrimmaged them and we had a shot to win the game today. So obviously we were one of the best teams here and we showed it throughout the week. Now, we just hope that some of those guys will get some opportunities.''