Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (3/30/14)

Tobias Harris

By John Denton
March 30, 2014

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic dug their way out of a 21-point deficit and tied the game three times in the fourth quarter, but they could never get over the hump as playoff-bound Toronto escaped with a 98-93 victory.

Here are five takeaways from the Magic’s frustrating loss at the Amway Center:

IN-BOUND WOES: As Magic coach Jacque Vaughn pointed out, there were countless moments that led to Sunday night’s loss, such as the Magic going more than 9 minutes in the first half without a field goal, 19 turnovers throughout and a lopsided free throw disparity in favor of the Raptors.

But the most frustrating moment once again for the Magic was the inability to in-bound the ball in a crunch-time situation and the game on the line. Trailing 96-93 with 8.9 seconds to play, Vaughn drew up a play for Arron Afflalo to rub off two screens and catch the ball at the top of the 3-point line for a potential game-tying shot. It was Afflalo who tied up Friday’s game against Charlotte with a 3-pointer with 7 seconds to play.

Toronto wisely switched defenders on the screens to choke off the Afflalo option and Maurice Harkless couldn’t get the ball in-bounds. He turned and asked for timeout as referee Scott Foster was getting to five with his count and he whistled the Magic for a turnover that returned the ball to the Raptors.

``We were looking for Arron, but he just wasn’t open and nobody else was open,’’ Harkless said. ``I tried to call time out, but I guess I didn’t call it in time.’’

The in-bounding issue is nothing new to the Magic. Orlando couldn’t get the ball in late in a loss in Cleveland and again on Feb. 7 against Oklahoma City. Against Indiana, Tobias Harris had to try and throw the ball off David West’s leg to avoid a five-second call and the Magic had to survive a shot at the buzzer by Paul George.

FREE THROW TURNAROUND: On Friday, Orlando attempted its second-most free throws of the season (35) and hit 26 tries. The Magic had a 21 free throw disparity on the Bobcats – their largest in the past two seasons.

On Sunday, the tables were turned by a Toronto team that was much more aggressive at attacking the rim. The Raptors made 26 of 27 free throws with the only miss coming from DeMar DeRozan, who drilled 15 freebies. By comparison, Orlando got to the line just 14 times and made 10 free throws.

``We were shooting a lot of jumpers tonight, so I guess that would be a reason (for the lack of free throws),’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who scored 14 points and made three of his four free throws.

Added center Nikola Vucevic: ``We weren’t aggressive enough going to the rim to get fouls. That’s pretty much it.’’

MORE BAD BLOOD: Andrew Nicholson is usually the Magic’s most mild-mannered player and it takes a lot to get him riled up.

But one opposing player who gets under his skin is Tyler Hansbrough. When Hansbrough played for Indiana last season, he and Nicholson got into it during two different games and both were hit with technical fouls.

Hansbrough now plays for the Raptors, and the discontent between he and Nicholson remains. With the two of them matched up against one another on Sunday, Hansbrough locked up Nicholson as the two of them were running up the court and fell across the back of the Magic power forward’s legs. When Hansbrough argued the foul call, he was whistled for a technical foul.

Seconds later, Nicholson was whistled for a foul when he hit Hansbrough in the throat while trying to box out on a rebound. For the game, Nicholson played just 7 minutes and didn’t score and Hansbrough played only 5 minutes and didn’t scratch.

GROWTH FOR VUCEVIC: Just two nights after bashing the Bobcats for 24 points and 23 rebounds, Vucevic looked like he had another big game in him with his start to Sunday’s game.

The 23-year-old 7-footer had 18 points and six rebounds by halftime. The problem was that while Vucevic made eight of his first 10 shots, his Magic teammates hit just eight of 26 shots (30.7 percent) in the first half.

Vaughn said the Magic talked at halftime about continuing to pound the ball inside to Vucevic in the second half. But that didn’t happen when the Raptors got more physical in the post. Vucevic got just three shot attempts in the second half, in part, because he got pushed off the block a couple of times by rapidly improving Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas.

In time, Vucevic will be able to better hold his post position, Vaughn said.

``He’ll continue to get stronger. When he’s playing bigger guys, the physical part of the game will be more important to him,’’ Vaughn said. ``Sometimes he gets pushed off the spot that he wants. Physically, he’ll get stronger. That gives you more confidence when you can push a guy back and give some resistance. I think that’s the next phase for him.’’

QUOTABLE: ``We’re kind of getting really known for digging ourselves a hole. It’s tough to always dig yourself out, but one thing going into the second half was knowing that we’ve done it before. We had all of the confidence in the world that we could come back and cut into the lead and get into the ball game. We did that and we just came up short in the end. There were some tough calls down the stretch and they hit tough shots, so it’s a learning lesson for us.’’ – Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half