Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (3/1/14)
By John Denton
March 1, 2014
MIAMI – Here are five takeaways from the Orlando Magic’s 112-98 loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday night at American Airlines Arena:
KEY POINT OF THE GAME: The Magic played especially well offensively in the first half and they were within 67-60 midway through the third period when center Nikola Vucevic rammed home a left-handed dunk.
But that just seemed to ignite the Miami offense. From that point, the Heat made nine of their next 15 shots to break the game open and take an 89-73 lead into the fourth period. During that critical stretch of the game, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade combined for 12 points.
``They’re just so tough to guard,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``We had some turnovers that fuelled their break. Overall we did some good things and got some good looks. But they are just such a tough team to guard.’’
MAGIC MOMENT OF THE NIGHT: Orlando reserve center Kyle O’Quinn watched how starter Nikola Vucevic controlled the paint in the early going and then did much of the same when he came in off the bench.
O’Quinn, a second-year center out of Norfolk State, has earned the trust of his teammates and the Magic coaching staff with his toughness and his high basketball IQ despite not beginning to play basketball until his junior year of high school.
O’Quinn played a major role in helping keep the Magic within striking distance in the first three quarters. He helped expose Miami’s weakness at center against Chris Anderson and Greg Oden by contributing 14 points, a career-best 15 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot.
``I was just trying to crash the boards every time,’’ said O’Quinn, whose rebound total topped the 14 he grabbed against New York last season. ``Nik talked to me and he was giving me little tips and what no. When he came out of the game, he showed me some of the openings and I just kept attacking the glass.’’
STAT OF THE GAME: Not only are the Heat loaded with star players, but they have some of the most efficient players in the game. James and Wade came into Saturday’s game first and second in the NBA in field goal percentage among wing players, shooting 57.9 percent and 55.1 percent, respectively.
Wade and James were at their efficient bests most of Saturday night. James made four of his first six shots and had six assists compared to just one turnover in the first half. As for Wade, he is coming off the best February shooting month of his career and he started March with five makes in eight tries in the first half.
``(Wade) makes them a different team,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``He can score the basketball. You saw it with the previous game against New York where he was able to get to the rim. He’s just a tough matchup. He can post up smaller (shooting guards) and he can get by longer (small forwards). When he’s making his pull-up jumper, he’s extremely difficult to guard.’’
Miami’s ``Big Three’’ of James (20 points), Wade (24 points) and Chris Bosh (17 points) were the model of efficiency and needed just three quarters of work before resting in the fourth. James made eight of 12 shots, Wade hit 10 of 14 tries and Bosh drilled five of eight attempts, including two 3-pointers. James and Wade combined for 11 assists and just four turnovers.
PLANNING AHEAD: With the Magic set to play Philadelphia on Sunday night at the Amway Center, Vaughn made the decision early on to rest Vucevic and Victor Oladipo.
Much as he has been the past two years against Miami, Vucevic was active and dominant at times on the inside. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds in just 22 minutes of work. He also had six offensive rebounds, four of which resulted in tip-in baskets.
Oladipo is the only Magic player to appear in all 61 games this season and from time to time Vaughn looks for opportunities to rest the electrifying rookie. Saturday seemed like a perfect time to do so what with Oladipo slogging through a forgettable game. He made just two of six shots and missed both of his 3-point tries. Uncharacteristically, Oladipo missed four free throw attempts – a possible sign that he’s starting to fatigue.
``With the back-to-back, I kept Nik’s minutes and Victor’s minutes down,’’ Vaughn said. ``So hopefully those guys will be fresh (on Sunday) and ready to roll when we get back home.’’
WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN?: Much has been made of late of the black protective mask that LeBron James wore on Thursday night against the New York Knicks to protect his broken nose.
James said he received a call from the league about the mask on Friday and a ``request’’ was made that he switch to a clear mask as required by league rules. ``I’m good with the NBA right now, so I’m going to honor that request,’’ James said with a hearty laugh.
Heat teammate Dwyane Wade, who was once reprimanded for wearing band aids with logos, told James on Thursday night that he had better enjoy wearing the colored mask because it would soon by banned by the league. Similarly, Kyrie Irving had worn a black mask one game before being told by the NBA to switch to a clear one.
James said he wore the black mask because it was lighter and less worrisome than the clear one. He admitted prior to Saturday’s game that he was somewhat wary of switching to a mask that he hadn’t practiced in before.
Still, James said he got lots of positive feedback on the look of the black mask on social media sites. He fully expected to soon see T-shirts pop up with pictures of him wearing the black mask.
``I got (messages) saying I looked menacing, that I looked like a Superhero and that it was amazing,’’ James said. ``Nobody said that it looked terrible.’’