Denton: Magic vs. Bulls Analysis (12/16/13)

   

On the road for 15 of the past 17 nights, the Magic will now be home for the Christmas holiday and for their longest home stand of the season. From now until the end of 2013, the Magic will host Utah (Wednesday), Sacramento (Saturday), New York (Monday), Detroit (Dec. 27), Atlanta (Dec. 29) and Golden State (Dec. 31).

The Magic were playing their second game in as many nights. They lost in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday in Oklahoma City, falling 101-98 to a Thunder team that is 12-0 at home this season. Nelson said even though the Magic lost on Sunday, they gained some valuable confidence in Oklahoma City.

``When you play well against a championship-contending team it helps. There are no moral victories for us, but we gained a little confidence (Sunday) night,’’ Nelson said. ``We know that we can compete with anybody. We just have to take care of the smaller things. That hurt us (Sunday), but we cleaned it up tonight.’’

The Magic took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter and extended it out to 11 points three different times. One spectacular play saw O’Quinn throw a back-door pass to a cutting Harkless for a dunk as he was fouled.

Chicago got as close as 80-79 on a lefty runner by Joakim Noah, but the Magic were able to hang on with the free throw from Afflalo.

Up eight at the half, the Magic came out of the locker room in the third quarter and played as efficiently as they have at any stretch this season. They made 10 of their first 14 shots to extend their lead to as large as 17 points.

With Nelson pushing the ball in transition, he set up Afflalo for several wide-open jump shots. Afflalo torched a once-stingy Chicago defense in the third period by making five of his first six shots for 13 third-period points. At that point, Afflalo had made eight of nine shots.

Orlando did let the Bulls back into the game late in the third quarter, As the Magic were missing six straight shots, Chicago ripped off 10 straight points, capped by a Taj Gibson dunk over Vucevic. The two played together in college at USC. But the Magic did get a break just before the third-quarter horn as Afflalo drew a foul, hit two free throws and took a 67-59 lead into the fourth period.

The first half was an ugly one on the offensive ends for the two teams, but the Magic still had a 43-35 lead. Orlando made just 38.6 percent of its shots, but it held the Bulls to a woeful 30.2 percent and 0 for 7 from 3-point range.

The Magic used a balanced attack in the first half to keep Chicago’s gritty defense on balance. Six different Orlando players scored at least five points, but Nelson and Oladipo were the most efficient of the bunch.

The Magic were a plus-11 in Nelson’s 18 minutes on the floor in the first half as the veteran point guard scored six points, grabbed four rebounds and handed out three assists. Oladipo was nearly as productive with six points and four assists and he didn’t have a turnover in 14 minutes.

The game got off to an ominous start for the Magic as they missed their first three shots, Davis clanged two free throws and Vaughn had to call a timeout to stop a 6-0 Chicago start. But the Magic responded with the game’s next 15 points to take control of game in the early going. Vaughn was especially proud of the way Orlando defended the Bulls throughout the game – even at times when it was struggling on offense.

``The most important thing is that when we didn’t see the ball going in, we still had a good focus on the defensive end,’’ he said. ``We talk about being unselfish, but you can also be unselfish on the defensive end of the floor. … We talk about playing forward and playing to the next play and we were able to do that tonight.’’

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