Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (2/26/14)

By John Denton
Feb. 26, 2014

PHILADELPHIA – Here are five takeaways from the Orlando Magic’s 101-90 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center:

ROAD RELIEF: Orlando came into Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia riding an unsightly 16-game losing streak, one that incredibly dated back 71 days and more than 10 weeks. They knew that winning in Philadelphia against a slumping Sixers team that had lost 11 in a row was an emergency situation.

Forward Tobias Harris, who had 13 points and seven rebounds, was asked if this was a must-win and he didn’t hesitate, saying: ``Yeah, most definitely. We came in at halftime of the game and said, `We’re better than that.’ And we came out in the second half with a more determined attitude. We were able to get stops. They made a run late in the third quarter, but in the fourth quarter we responded well.’’

Orlando’s last win came on Dec. 16 in Chicago, meaning that it hadn’t won away from Central Florida in 2014. But that streak is finally over and it came as a big relief to the Magic’s players.

``This is real big because we really needed one, especially a team like this who we can beat,’’ said 20-year-old forward Maurice Harkless, who scored 13 points and drained three 3-pointers. ``To come in here and get a win, it’s really big. We started slow, but we came together. And in the fourth quarter we took over the game.’’

MAGIC MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Injuries had kept Jameer Nelson from playing in front of friends and family in Philadelphia the past few years, but he wasn’t about to let a nagging sinus infection keep him out on Wednesday.

Not when the young Magic needed his veteran savvy and shot-making in a game that Orlando needed to win for a variety of reasons.

Playing in front of 70 people he got tickets for and with his mother sitting courtside, Nelson was having a forgettable game through the first three quarters. The 10-year veteran missed five of his first seven shots and he watched Philadelphia rally to tie the game at 67-all heading into the fourth quarter.

But Nelson wasted no time in the fourth period before he decided to take over. He opened with a 3-pointer, buried another short jumper and then faked out Philadelphia center Byron Mullens with a fake pass for a layup.

In all, Nelson scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and he added four assists in the final 12 minutes. Nelson grew up in nearby Chester and lives in suburban Philadelphia in the offseason, and this was the first time in 28 career regular-season games that he had a double-double (with 12 assists) in the City of Brotherly Love.

``I’ve been in situations like this a lot. When you’re in one of those situations where you’re not shooting it well, you don’t stop shooting,’’ Nelson said. ``I put in a lot of work every offseason for the last 15 or 16 years to make myself who I am and a good enough shooter to be in the NBA. I don’t lack confidence when I’m two of seven; I’ll just shoot the next shot.’’

MO FROM MO: A night after playing well in Washington, D.C., Harkless was being looked to to repeat the feat on Wednesday in Philadelphia. Inconsistency has been an issue for Harkless, who is still just 20 years old and a year younger than rookie Victor Oladipo.

Harkless overcame a slow start on Wednesday and played especially well in the middle of the game. He scored 13 points, made three 3-pointers and blocked two shots against a Philadelphia team that originally drafted him, but traded him to Orlando in August of 2012.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn has talked repeatedly to Harkless about putting together a string of consistent efforts, and Tuesday and Wednesday certainly qualified as major steps forward for the second-year pro.

``Coaches are going to lean on guys who will help coaches know what they are going to get for the majority of a game,’’ Vaughn said. ``Coach wants someone that they can count on night-in and night-out. (Harkless’) recognition is a big part of that. He has to continue to have the great preparation and mental mindset going into a game. What got him to play so well in Washington? Can you encapsulate that? Was it what I ate, my nap, my preparation before it? Can you continue to do that on a daily basis?’’

QUOTABLE: Leave it up to the 10-year veteran Nelson – a players who has seen it all and done it all in the NBA – to come up with a somewhat wacky analogy for the way the Magic were playing in the first half.

Orlando trailed 44-41 at the break largely because they weren’t hustling back on defense. They gave up 20 fast break points in the first two quarters, and that irritated many of the Magic players.

``You felt like a bird pooped on your head – disgusted,’’ Nelson said with a laugh. ``It’s disgusting. The way we were playing and not getting back on defense – 20 fast break points in the first half – it was disgusting. Like a bird pooping on your head.’’

ROOKIE REPORT: Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo are clearly the top two candidates for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award, but Wednesday’s showdown left a lot to be desired.

Neither player shot the ball well – Carter-Williams was just three of 13, while Oladipo made seven of 16 tries. Carter-Williams looked fatigued and unsure of himself at times when he couldn’t get into the lane for layups.

Oladipo overcame seven turnovers in 34 minutes with the much better game: 17 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Cawrter-Williams scored eight points and had only four assists. Clearly, he is hampered by Philadelphia’s trades of Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.

The game was somewhat of a letdown from early December when Oladipo and Carter-Williams became the first rookies to have dueling triple-doubles in the same game. They will meet again in Orlando on Sunday.