Denton: Win Tonight Would Even Magic's Home Record This Season
By John Denton
April 11, 2014
ORLANDO – Challenged from the first day of training camp by head coach Jacque Vaughn to be significantly better at the Amway Center this season, the Orlando Magic have followed through by learning to better defend their home court.
And if the Magic can win a third straight game tonight when they host the Washington Wizards, the Magic will hit another significant milestone at home.
The Magic (23-55) can get to .500 at the Amway Center tonight if it can figure out how to slow down a Washington team that has beaten them three times this season. Orlando is currently 19-20 at home, and while that might not seem like much, potentially getting to .500 at home is important as the franchise attempts to build a winner from the bottom up.
``I’ve been in a situation before where when I was in Denver, taking care of home was an extreme priority,’’ Magic guard Arron Afflalo said. ``Road games are just really tough to win, even when you are a veteran team. The first stages of good team development and progressing toward becoming a team that can win 50 to 60 games is taking care of your home court. So to get to .500 this year, and hopefully (.500 overall) next year, it would be ideal for our progression.’’
The Magic were just 12-29 at home last season, and several of those losses were of the 20- and 30-point variety. Vaughn hit training camp this season knowing that the youth-filled Magic had to learn how to better defend their home court to take a step in the growth process. Orlando has done just that this season, and they have notched some of their biggest wins of the season at home. Orlando has whipped Oklahoma City, Indiana, the Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn (twice) and Portland. Against the teams currently in playoff position, the Magic have nine wins versus those squads.
``We never put numbers on ourselves throughout any point of this year and we won’t start now, but what we did say is that we wanted to see some improvement going forward,’’ Vaughn said. ``I think we’ve see that, especially with our play at home.’’
Orlando will once again be without center Nikola Vucevic, who will miss his fourth straight game with soreness in his left Achilles’ tendon. Vucevic, who has battled ankle, Achilles’ and concussion problems all season, will make the upcoming road trip (Brooklyn on Sunday and Chicago on Monday) and hopes to play again before the end of the season.
Washington (40-38) is looking at potentially facing Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs after dropping to the seventh seed in the East. The Wizards fell in overtime to Charlotte on Wednesday and have dropped their past two games.
The inside-outside duo of former Magic center Marcin Gortat (17.7 ppg. and 9.7 rpg. on 57.6 percent shooting) and Trevor Ariza (22.3 ppg., 6.7 rpg. and 6- percent shooting) and John Wall (21.3 ppg. and 10.3 apg.) has doomed Orlando in three meetings against Washington this season. Figuring out a way to be physical with Gortat, keep Wall out of the paint and check Ariza at the 3-point line will be the key to Orlando winning tonight and potentially evening their home record at 20-20.
``It would be a good thing (to improve the home record), but at the end of the day we just need to win,’’ rookie guard Victor Oladipo said. ``We need to go out there and play the right way. We need to get momentum going into the summer.’’
The Magic close the regular season at home on Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. Originally scheduled to tip-off at 8 p.m., the game will now begin just after 7 p.m.