Denton: Magic Hoping to Ride Momentum

By John Denton
Feb. 12, 2014

ORLANDO – Rookie guard Victor Oladipo, one of the emotional leaders of the suddenly surging Orlando Magic, absolutely believes in the power of momentum in the NBA.

He loves the feel-good vibes that the Magic have created with a five-game home winning streak and a three-game overall winning spree that includes victories against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers – the respective leaders in the Western and Eastern Conferences.

The goal now, Oladipo said, is for the Magic (16-37) to ride the momentum provided by the last three wins and carry it over to tonight’s home game against the rugged Memphis Grizzlies (28-23).

``We’ve got to build on what we’ve done, keep growing and not be satisfied,’’ Oladipo said Wednesday morning following the Magic’s shoot-around practice. ``We have to continue play for one another, cover for each other and play with energy. … There’s no question (about momentum) because that’s the way the game of basketball is. But I also believe that momentum can stop very easily if you don’t have the same approach to every game.’’

Wednesday’s home game will be the Magic’s last one before they break for the NBA All-Star Game. The Magic will be off the next four days before practicing on Monday and starting the second half of the season in Milwaukee on Tuesday. There would be no better way to end the first half than continuing a winning streak that would be longest of the season, Magic center Nikola Vucevic said.

``It would be good to get (four) wins in a row and have everybody going off to the break happy and then come back wanting to keep it going,’’ Vucevic said. ``It would be a great way to finish the first half of the season (with a potential win tonight). It’s been really good for us, playing like this. Then, hopefully we can have a good start to the second half of the season.’’

Vucevic played especially well on Sunday against Indiana’s towering frontline with 19 points and 13 rebounds. He grabbed eight offensive rebounds even though he was facing 7-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert.

Vucevic will have a similar challenge tonight when he goes against Marc Gasol, who had 18 points in Memphis’ 92-89 defeat of Washington on Tuesday night. Gasol is one of the players that Vucevic admires the most and he’s tried to pattern his game after the Memphis center. Vucevic knows that holding his own against Gasol tonight will be a key to the Magic having a chance to win.

``He’s really a great overall player because we does everything on the court,’’ Vucevic said of Gasol, who on the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award last season. ``He’s a great defensive player, not necessarily by blocking shots, but by being a presence out there. He can shoot, pass and he’s good in the post. He just has a lot of skills. He’s somebody I can play like as I get better. I like his game because I think I can play that way.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn didn’t want his team making more of Wednesday’s game than it is just because it has a winning streak going. Vaughn said Orlando’s only focus should be doing all of the little things necessary to beat Memphis and not concern itself with keeping alive the three-game streak.

``I just told the guys that the reason why today’s game is so important is because it’s today’s game. That’s as simple as it gets,’’ Vaughn said. ``It’s business as usual, nothing different. We approached work like work (on Tuesday) and we did shoot-around the same today. If we play better and show improvement on the floor, then mission accomplished. So hopefully those things lead to us playing well.’’