Denton: Magic Return Home Looking to Rebound from Wednesday's Heartbreaker

By John Denton
March 8, 2013

ORLANDO – In a span of 48 hours earlier this week, the Orlando Magic experienced one of their most exhilarating victories of the season and one of their most heart-breaking defeats.

But in the midst of those dramatic highs and lows, head coach Jacque Vaughn learned something very important about his squad: It possesses a fighting spirit that persists throughout rough periods in games and carries the team until the final horn sounds.

The Magic trailed New Orleans by as much as 17 points and they were down nine with 3:30 to play only to put on a furious run of basketball in the second half to rally for a three-point victory.

And against the defending champion Miami Heat on Wednesday, Orlando clawed its way out of a 20-point hole with a relentless amount of effort and hustle in the second half. The Magic ultimately led the Heat by five points and carried a one-point lead into final seconds before LeBron James converted a game-winning layup.

While Orlando just missed out on becoming the talk of the basketball world by ending Miami’s franchise-record winning streak at 15 games, it proved a thing or two to Vaughn.

``It was probably the most impressive stretch for us throughout the course of the year,’’ Vaughn said. ``Just because of it being an easy opportunity for your mind to give in and give into the circumstance (being down double digits) and we didn’t. I told the guys just the feel of locker room at halftime when there was no panic, no chaos. We talked over what we could adjust and then we did so. For me, as a coach, that was the best part, seeing the guys really believe in each other and knowing that they could get something done in the second half of those games.’’

The hope is that the growth continues tonight when the Magic (17-45) host the rugged Indiana Pacers (38-23) at the Amway Center at 7 p.m. The Magic had one of their best start-to-finish performances of the season against the Pacers on Jan. 16 in a 97-86 victory.

The Pacers, who play in Miami on Sunday in a highly anticipated playoff rematch, have won seven of the last 10, but they lost at home to Boston on Wednesday. Indiana is locked in a tie with New York for the Eastern Conference’s second seed. The Pacers rank first in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage (41.5 percent) and second in points allowed.

Magic veteran point guard Jameer Nelson said he learned quite a bit about the toughness and growth of a team filled with five rookies and three second-year players in the two road games earlier this week. Nelson said a big part of the reason that the team has been able to hang tough of late has been because of the special chemistry it has built in such a quick time. And they’ve done so even though Tobias Harris, Beno Udrih and Doron Lamb have been with the team just two weeks after being acquired at the trade deadline from the Milwaukee Bucks.

``It sounds funny, but we lost a game (to Miami), but we fought hard and did what we have to do, only to fall short,’’ Nelson said. ``But it was fun how our guys battled and I’m having fun playing with these guys and spending time with them off the court as well. Even with the new guys, we’ve bonded and meshed together pretty quickly. It’s only been a couple of weeks, and just my second game playing with these guys, but it’s fun seeing the energy that we have and the fight that we have in us. For me to be the longest-tenured guy here, it’s tough because we haven’t been winning games, but the focus and commitment and everything that we had in the past have been there.’’

MORE STORIES: Afflalo Embracing Renovation | Harris Finds Inspiration From Father; Thriving in Orlando | Udrih Relieved to be Out of Milwaukee

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