Denton: Lamb Shines Bright Against Former Team

By John Denton
April 11, 2013

ORLANDO – With the season winding down and there being fewer opportunities to prove himself to his new coaches and teammates, Doron Lamb looked at Wednesday night’s game as one of those now-or-never moments.

And even though he’s played very little for the Magic since being acquired in a Feb. 21 trade from Milwaukee, Lamb went into Wednesday’s game a hot hand acquired in Tuesday’s practice and a bold message from teammate Tobias Harris.

``(On Tuesday), Doron was shooting lights out in practice, so I just told him, `When you get in the game you need to be ready to rock and roll and let it go,’’’ Harris said of his pregame speech to his teammate. ``That’s what he did and he really contributed for us. I knew that all it would take for him would be one game to let everybody know what he could do. He made some great plays for us on offense and defense. I’m very proud of him to have a game like that.’’

Lamb entered Wednesday night with just four 3-pointers in a Magic uniform, but he matched that total in an emotion-filled 113-103 overtime defeat of the Bucks at the Amway Center.

The night was full of jaw-dropping numbers as the Magic accomplished something no NBA team has done in 46 years with two players scoring at least 30 points and grabbing at least 19 rebounds (Nikola Vucevic had 30 points and 20 rebounds, while Harris scored 30 and grabbed 19 boards). Even Milwaukee second-year center John Henson got in on the act, grabbing a career-best 25 rebounds and blocking seven shots off the Bucks bench.

But maybe the most surprising statistical line of the night came from Lamb, who had scored just 38 points prior to Wednesday in the six weeks of being a part of the Magic. Not only did he score 16 points and pump in four 3-pointers, he had five straight points in overtime that broke open a two-point game and all but secured the victory for the Magic.

``It shows a little bit of what I can do,’’ Lamb said. ``I knew my time would come. Coach (Jacque Vaughn) told me to always be ready and I had to step up and be aggressive on offense.’’

Making the adjustment to his new team has been slow-going for Lamb, a 21-year-old rookie who left Kentucky this time last year after winning a collegiate national championship. Whereas Harris has given the Magic plenty of firepower with his 16.9 points per game and Beno Udrih steadied the point guard position with Jameer Nelson out with a sprained ankle, Lamb has struggled to find a steady spot in the rotation.

But he caught Vaughn’s eye with the way that he accepted the challenge of defending red-hot Bulls guard Nate Robinson last Friday night, and he’s gotten steady looks since then. And on Wednesday he even spent time on former Magic guard J.J. Redick, who was held to a subpart six of 16 shooting night that included six misses from 3-point range. Vaughn likes what he sees from the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Lamb, who is capable of playing both guard spots.

``He’s been working extremely hard with the coaches, just learning our system and boy, was he good (Wednesday night),’’ said Vaughn, whose Magic (20-59) host the Boston Celtics (40-38) on Saturday night. ``He’s shown glimpses like when he guarded Nate Robinson in Chicago. We were able to put him on multiple perimeter guys and he locked in defensively. And he had some big buckets for us down the stretch, and that’s not even (mentioning) the big threes that he had for us.’’

Lamb, a second-round draft pick last spring by Milwaukee, doesn’t have a guaranteed contract beyond this season and knows he will likely have to fight for a roster spot in Orlando next season. That’s why he’s worked especially hard down the stretch to try and prove himself. One such instance was the shooting display that he put on in Tuesday’s practice – one that carried over to Wednesday night’s big victory.

``(Tuesday) in practice I was hitting a lot of jump shots and spacing off the post feeds and knocking down the jumpers. (Wednesday), I did the same thing and now hopefully I can keep it going,’’ said Lamb, who has made eight of 13 3-point shots and is averaging 2.6 points in 21 games with the Magic. ``It’s been tough for me (playing only sparingly), but I’ve kept working hard since Day 1. Hard work usually pays off. (Wednesday) that hard work paid off and I’m happy for myself and for my team.’’

Magic rookie Maurice Harkless has known Lamb since the two of them were in high school in the New York City area. Lamb grew up a short subway ride away from Madison Square Garden, dreaming that he would someday become a NBA star. Harkless, who gutted through 51 minutes on Wednesday, thinks that Wednesday’s breakout performance could be just moment that the quiet and reserved Lamb needed to break out of his shell and prove what he can do for the Magic.

``Now, he’s finally getting more comfortable playing with this team and playing free,’’ Harkless said of Lamb. ``It takes time. It’s tough for a rookie to come to a new team. He’s always been a great shooter in high school and college, and he’s finally getting a chance to show it here. This will be so good for him.’’

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