Denton: Magic Gearing Up For Jazz
By John Denton
December 23, 2012
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic’s players and coaches figure it will be a process learning how to play without a key cog such as injured forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis.
But then again, playing without a key cog should be something that the Magic are quite familiar with because of a bevy of injuries the team has already endured. Hedo Turkoglu, who is inching closer to a return by increasing the intensity of his shooting drills on a daily basis, broke his hand in the first game of the season and hasn’t played since. Al Harrington, who had four surgeries in the offseason, has yet to play this season. And Magic point guard Jameer Nelson missed six games early in the season with a strained groin.
Now, as the Magic (12-14) prepare to face the Utah Jazz (14-14) tonight at 6 p.m. at the Amway Center, they are trying to make adjustments without Davis, who sprained his shoulder on Wednesday late in a win against the Washington Wizards. Orlando lost 93-90 Friday in Toronto in the first game without Davis, and they want to correct the things that went wrong in that game prior to facing the Jazz tonight.
``Really, this year has been a process in itself,’’ Nelson said. ``Losing so many guys in and out of the lineup with Turk, myself and J.J. (Redick) for a game. And now losing Glen, it’s just another part of the process. It’s challenging for us as a team and probably for the coaches too to make decisions about who to play. But the guys who have stepped in have done a great job for us.’’
Rookie Andrew Nicholson started in place of Davis on Friday, but struggled in his 19 minutes on the floor. But the starting of Nicholson and Maurice Harkless was significant in that it was the first time since April of 2005 that two rookies started for the Magic. Seven years ago, it was Nelson and Dwight Howard in the starting lineup for Orlando.
Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn had to get creative without Davis in the lineup on Friday, and it was a ``small ball’’ lineup that allowed the Magic to make a run at the lead late in the game. Nelson, E’Twaun Moore and Redick played in the backcourt, while Arron Afflalo was playing a quasi-forward slot and Gustavo Ayon was at center.
That grouping allowed the Magic to cut an 11-point deficit to one in the final minute. Whether or not a similar tactic will work against Utah remains to be seen. Al Jefferson scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against the Magic earlier in the month, and the toughness of power forward Paul Millsap presents challenges for the Magic as well.
``I think game-to-game, it will be different how we play,’’ Redick said. ``I don’t know if we’ll be able to go small like we did against Toronto. I don’t know if we’ll have somebody to guard Millsap (in a smaller lineup). We’ll have to figure out that rotation from game-to-game. We will do that and we’ll do a better job at it.’’
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