Denton: Magic Hoping to Turn Road Struggles Around

By John Denton
Feb. 17, 2014

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic rookie Victor Oladipo is quite familiar with the word ``process,’’ using it every chance that he gets in interviews as it relates to his transition to the NBA and his adaptation to a new position.

Similar to Oladipo’s adjustment to the NBA, the standout guard knows that it’s still very much a process for the Magic to become a better team when playing on the road. Candidly, Oladipo said on Monday that the Magic must learn how to win road games in tough environments.

``We’ve got to play with the same confidence and enthusiasm on the road that we played with at home,’’ said Oladipo, whose voice was still raspy from a busy All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. ``It’s going to be tough (on the road) because we don’t have the crowd and we have to figure out how to gather things together.

… Playing on the road is something that you have to learn how to do. We’re still learning and we have to realize that you might not get calls and you have to play through things. It’s something we have to learn how to do and keep playing hard.’’

The Magic (16-38) ended the first half of the season by winning three of four games at the Amway Center, but they now must leave behind the comforts of home for the road. Orlando has the NBA’s worst record away from home (3-23), but it will have a chance to change that with six of the next seven games on the road, beginning with a back-to-back set of games in Milwaukee (Tuesday) and Cleveland (Wednesday). Following a home game against New York on Friday, the Magic close out February with road games in Toronto, Washington, Philadelphia and Miami – all places that they have already lost this season.

Magic forward Tobias Harris feels that the Magic can set the tone for the rest of the season and show off their newfound confidence with a strong start Tuesday night in Milwaukee against the lowly Bucks (9-43). Milwaukee is one of just two teams that the Magic have beaten twice this season – Atlanta is the other – but the 94-91 and 113-102 victories came in Orlando.

``(Tuesday’s) game is an important game. Certain games of the season are really important for a team, and I believe that first game after the All-Star break can set a tone in how we want to play,’’ said Harris, who began his career in Milwaukee prior to last February’s trade to Orlando. ``So having a good focus (Monday in practice) and (Tuesday) will be important for us.’’

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn made it a point of emphasis this season for the team to play better at home and Orlando has done just that by winning at the Amway Center against the likes of Indiana, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn this season. Orlando’s 13 home wins are tied for the seventh most in the East. Vaughn hopes his team plays with the same focus and intensity on the road as it has at home of late.

``Hopefully, with the amount of success that we’ve had at home, it relates when we go on the road. Hopefully it shows us how disciplined and in-tuned we need to be with every possession. Hopefully guys realize that,’’ Vaughn said. ``The thought is the rim is the same size, the free throw lane is the same and the free throw line is the same (on the road as it is at home). Hopefully we can take the confidence that we play with at home and let’s see what we can do with it on the road.’’

The Magic are hoping to build upon the confidence and strong chemistry that they forged just before the all-star break when they played some of their best basketball of the season. Orlando thumped Detroit and then twice rallied to shock elite teams Oklahoma City and Indiana. Orlando lost to Memphis last Wednesday, but it had the lead in that game with 90 seconds to play.

``We’re more confident now that we beat two of the best teams in the league and we played Memphis pretty well,’’ Magic center Nikola Vucevic. ``I think guys are more confident that we can do it. It’s just about us doing it over and over again and playing the right way the whole game.’’

Doing that on the road has been a struggle for the Magic this season. Their three road wins are one fewer than Milwaukee’s four and four less than Philadelphia (7-21), Utah (7-19) and Sacramento (7-19). Orlando’s road wins have come in Chicago, Charlotte and Atlanta.

The Magic have had less success on the road because they have at times performed like a drastically different team away from the Amway Center. At home, Orlando averages 100 points, shoots 46 percent from the floor and 36.1 percent from the 3-point line. By comparison, the Magic average just 91.7 points and shoot 42 percent from the floor and 33.6 percent from the 3-point range away from home. Finding more of a consistency – regardless the venue – will be the key to the Magic winning as much on the road as they have at home, Vucevic said.

``We’ve got to have the same approach that we had here (in Orlando) where we had more aggressiveness and more confidence so that we can take control of the game and not let the other team do that,’’ Magic center Nikola Vucevic said. ``When you play on the road and the other team takes control of the game, then the crowd gets into it and it makes everything harder. So we have to control these (road) games from the beginning. We have to prepare the same way we do for home games and have the same mental approach. We can’t have letdowns and we have to be more consistent.’’

The home/road splits are quite dramatic for several of the Magic players. Arron Afflalo’s point production is about the same (19.5 ppg. at home compared to 19.2 ppg. on the road), but he is shooting 10 percentage points higher from 3-point range at home as opposed to the road. Harris averages 15.6 points on 44 percent shooting at home, but dips to 11.1 points and 39.7 percent on the road. Oladipo’s road struggles have mirrored those of most rookies as he’s shot just 37.8 percent from the floor and 24.4 percent from the 3-point line on the road.

Oladipo was a main cog in a second unit that included Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, E’Twaun Moore and Harris that played a big role in Orlando’s three straight wins last week. That group helped the Magic outscore Detroit, Oklahoma City and Indiana 86-56 in three fourth quarters. Now, Oladipo said that young group must prove that it can put up the same production on the road where they can’t ride the emotion of the home crowd.

``We can keep doing it, but we have to have to proper mentality,’’ Oladipo said. ``We have to go out there and keep playing hard and playing together.’’