Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (3/28/14)

Afflalo

By John Denton
March 28, 2014

ORLANDO – Arron Afflalo hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 7.4 seconds left in regulation and the Orlando Magic rode a 24-point, 23-rebound effort from center Nikola Vucevic in the extra period to defeat Charlotte 110-105 in overtime.

Here are five takeaways from Orlando’s pulsating overtime victory on Friday night:

SEEING 20/20: Vucevic got off to a rough start on Friday night, missing 10 of his first 12 shots, and the Magic followed suit by falling into a 16-point hole early on. But when Vucevic kept fighting and clawing on both ends of the floor, it inspired the Magic to rally against a vastly improved Charlotte team that’s heading to the playoffs next month.

First off, Vucevic played well on the defensive end of the floor, holding Bobcats all-star Al Jefferson to just 20 points. Jefferson is a favorite to win the NBA’s Player of the Month award after averaging 25.4 points and 10.8 rebounds a game in March. Vucevic’s ability to front Jefferson limited him to just 16 shots and incredibly kept him off the free throw line all game (sero attempts).

Jefferson got the best of Vucevic last season, scoring 31 points on him by using a variety of pump fakes and up-and-under moves. Vucevic studied those moves leading up to Friday’s game and remained disciplined defensively.

``I was very locked in. Al is one of the guys that I had a lot of trouble with last year,’’ Vucevic said. ``When we played him in Utah he had 30-something on me. That’s a game I watched over and over to see what I did wrong and learn from it. He’s a good player and I’m not going to limit him to zero points. But I tried to do my best to keep him away from the paint as much as possible.’’

Vucevic’s 23 rebounds were the most he’s had since he hauled in a franchise record 29 boards on Dec. 31, 2012 against the Miami Heat. He had as many rebounds in the first half (16) as Charlotte combined (16) in the first two quarters. Of his 23 rebounds on Friday, 10 came on offensive rebounds and three led to tip-in baskets.

It was sixth 20-point, 20-rebound game of Vucevic’s two-year tenure with the Magic. It was the 24th time in two seasons that he’s grabbed at least 15 boards in a game.

``The ball was really coming my way a lot and I was really trying to grab it,’’ Vucevic said. ``They started the game off well and we didn’t make a lot of shots, but I was able to get those rebounds. I was just being aggressive on the boards and the ball was coming my way.’’

COLLEGE CAMARADERIE: The Magic failed to cut into the lead in the third period largely because they yielded 31 points to the Bobcats. Head coach Jacque Vaughn had a simple message to his team in the huddle just before the start of the fourth quarter and it proved to be prophetic.

``We talked about it going into the fourth that there were two quarters that we allowed 30 points – 30, 20 and 31 were the first three quarters,’’ Vaughn said. ``If we were going to have a 20-point quarter (defensively) we were going to have a chance to win the game. If we allowed a 30-point quarter we weren’t going to be on the winning side. So that was the challenge on our guys and they sure did step up to the challenge.’’

Orlando responded by holding Charlotte to 16 points in the fourth quarter and eight points in overtime. In the final two periods, the Bobcats made just 10 of 26 shots (38.4 percent).

STAT OF THE NIGHT: Orlando, which has had its troubles getting to the free throw line the past two seasons, attempted 35 free throws on Friday night compared to getting just 14 tries from the stripe. It’s the first time that the Magic have had a 21-free throw advantage on any opponent over the past two seasons.

Many of the free throws were the result of the Magic being the agggressors on the glass and going to the rim. Orlando had a 57-36 edge on the glass and they grabbed a whopping 19 offensive rebounds.

Said Charlotte head coach and former Orlando assistant Steve Clifford: ``First of all, they outworked us on the glass. That was the difference in the game. It was all we talked about all morning and it was our biggest emphasis coming in – to keep Vucevic off the glass and to be physical. We weren’t willing to do that.’’

QUOTABLE: ``We’ve had opportunities to learn from end-of-the-game situations, whether it was in triple overtime (a loss to Chicago), being on the road in Cleveland (another loss), there were scenarios we faced throughout the course of the year. Being in tight situations, being able to learn from situations – sometimes painful and not to our advantage – being able to not panic and get to a level of consistency, the guys have learned and that’s what growth is. Being able to learn from some of your mistakes and want to grow, that’s important.’’ – Vaughn on the Magic winning a second OT game of the season after losing the first five that required extra periods