Denton: Magic Must Adjust Without Big Baby
By John Denton
December 22, 2012
ORLANDO – When they were mostly whole – or as whole as they could have been while still without injured veterans Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington – the Orlando Magic ran like a well-oiled machine, routinely racing past foes and making a strong charge toward a .500 record.
But when the Magic lost another main cog with Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis suffering a shoulder sprain, their finely tuned motor showed signs on Friday night of sputtering and there were too many oil leaks to plug.
Orlando lost 93-90 on Friday in Toronto in their first game without Davis, their leading scorer, toughest defender and emotional leader. In terms of the Magic, sometimes the margin between winning and losing is so gauze-thin that simply taking one part of the motor out can cause the whole operation to sputter and wheeze.
The Magic (12-14) know that it could be a process getting used to life without Davis for the next few weeks. They hope to get some of their issues without Davis rectified Sunday at the Amway Center when they host the Utah Jazz at 6 p.m.
``It was a little different out there without him,’’ admitted Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who serves as a co-captain along with Davis. ``We just have to continue to figure it out without him. (Magic) Coach (Jacque Vaughn) is a smart guy and the coaching staff is smart and I know that they will figure it out.’’
The Magic will have to figure it out quickly because Davis could be out a month or more with a shoulder that he injured late in Monday’s defeat of the Washington Wizards. Davis, who was averaging career highs in minutes (33), points (16), rebounds (7.9) and assists (1.8), was diagnosed with a shoulder sprain and won’t need surgery. His return will depend on how he responds to treatment, but a four-to-six week timetable is one the Magic are banking on.
Up next is a Utah team that was routed in Indiana on Wednesday and played in Miami on Saturday night. The Jazz beat the Magic 87-81 on Dec. 5 in Salt Lake City. They present a unique challenge because both center Al Jefferson (16.8 ppg. and 10.2 rpg.) and Paul Millsap (14.7 ppg. and 8.2 rpg.) are scoring threats and tough on the boards. Jefferson popped the Magic for 31 points and 15 rebounds earlier in the month.
Not having Davis against Jefferson and Millsap will be difficult, Vaughn said. The Magic coach said it will be a process getting used to not having their starting power forward for a couple of weeks.
``You have to get used to not having (Davis) on the court,’’ Vaughn said. ``You are used to turning over, seeing him and being able to throw him the ball at different avenues of the game. We’ll continue to adjust without him and see what the game gives us.’’
Without Davis in Toronto on Friday, the Magic turned the ball over 17 times, couldn’t get enough defensive stops to ever get over the hump and failed to secure a key rebound in the final minute. Orlando led Toronto 2-0 in the opening minute, but never led again despite making several spirited runs at the lead.
Starting center Nikola Vucevic and converted power forward Gustavo Ayon played well inside, while rookie Andrew Nicholson – who got the first pro start of his career on Friday – struggled. Vucevic had 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots, while Ayon had one of his best games of the season with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Nicholson, however, made just three of 10 shots and scored six points in 19 minutes.
``We all just tried to pick up for (Davis’) loss and adjust by rebounding the ball more,’’ Vucevic said. ``I thought we did a pretty good job, but obviously we are going to miss (Davis) because he’s our leading scorer and he makes a lot of shots for us.’’
Two moments, in particular, where the Magic missed Davis were in the final minute of Friday’s game. With Toronto clinging to a 91-90 lead after Nelson had buried a clutch 3-pointer, DerMar DeRozan missed a runner in the lane only to see Amir Johnson grab the rebound. He was fouled and hit two free throws that put the Raptors up three points.
Then, J.J. Redick drove hard down the lane and as he drew two defenders to him, he dropped the ball off to Ayon. Normally, that would have been Davis, who has formed a great on-court relationship with Redick this season. Ayon bobbled the pass, regained himself and then had the ball swiped away by Terrence Ross. Not only would Davis have likely snatched the pass, he has the power to finish in traffic and might have converted a game-tying three-point play.
Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo, who scored 26 points on Friday to push his team-best scoring average to 16.4 points per game, said that the loss of Davis somewhat wrecked the momentum that the Magic had built up over the past two weeks while winning seven of 10 games. Afflalo said it might take some time for the Magic to get accustomed to not having Davis on the floor.
``When you are missing one of your leading scorers, that makes it tough,’’ Afflalo said. ``You want to continue to win, but a big part of our successful rhythm came with the guys who were contributing toward that success. You take Glen out of that and it hurts because he’s a key contributor. … We’ll have to continue to address this as any team would have to when they lose a key player.’’
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