By John Denton
January 18, 2013

``I think it was our effort and we didn’t play hard enough tonight,’’ said Magic center Nikola Vucevic, who had 11 points and nine rebounds and saw his streak of consecutive double-doubles end at eight. ``They came out really aggressive and really wanted to win this game and we didn’t play hard enough to compete against them.’’

Afflalo scored 23 points, but missed 12 of 20 shots and uncharacteristically lost his cool when his spinning layup attempt was blocked by Brendan Haywood. Jameer Nelson had 22 points, seven assists and four 3-pointers before leaving the game with a hip injury after being hit by a Haywood screen with 58 seconds left.

``It was just an emotional reaction. I don’t know what I directed at the ref outside of just an emotional reaction considering the situation in the game. That was a very important possession,’’ Afflalo said. ``I have to just make a better play. You’re not always going to get the whistle. I just wasn’t expecting to get a tech at that standpoint. I should have gotten a better shot up.’’

J.J. Redick added 13 points and three 3-pointers, while Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis – bothered all night by foul troubles and a back injury – scored just four points on one of five shooting. Afflalo said the up and down nature of the Magic is a sign that the team still has some growing to do.

``We are definitely learning how to mature as basketball players as it comes to our approach to the game,’’ Afflalo said. ``Our heightened awareness of our defensive responsibilities, our offensive efficiency and our playmaking for one another is usually at a very high level when we’re facing an elite team. So we’re still maturing as a group on how to do that night-in and night-out. You can’t expect that from young guys and it has to start with the veterans.’’

The Magic’s three-game home stand comes to an end Sunday night when they host the Dallas Mavericks. Orlando is then in suburban Detroit on Tuesday night to face the Pistons. Whether or not the team will have Nelson and/or Davis is up in the air.

The Magic will practice on Saturday, and rookie forward DeQuan Jones said there will be plenty for the team to address from Friday’s loss.

``This just sends you back to the drawing board and kind of exposes to the team what we need to work on,’’ said Jones, who had seven points in 20 minutes.

Redick missed his first four shots, but he heated up late in the third quarter to draw the Magic within 76-71 by the start of the fourth period. Redick had eight points in the final two minutes of the third one. His 3-pointer at the horn was a thing of beauty as he pump-faked Ramon Sessions to get the defender in the air, and then drilled the 25-foot shot. It was reminiscent of the game-winner that Redick made on Saturday in Los Angeles when he faked Clippers’ forward Matt Barnes and calmly drilled the go-ahead 3-pointer.

Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap, who coached Orlando’s Maurice Harkless at St. John’s a year ago, showed off his collegiate chops early in the game by employing a three-quarters court press. While the press didn’t force a lot of Magic turnovers, it did knock them out of their rhythm offensively and caused them to force attempts at the end of the shot clock.

Combine the offensive struggles with an inability to get stops on the defensive end, and Orlando trailed 57-45 in a disjointed first half. Charlotte made 59 percent of its shots in the first half – the highest percentage in a half for a Magic opponent this season.

Davis got in early foul trouble and Redick missed his three shots in the first half, limiting the usually potent duo to just one point in the first 24 minutes.

Charlotte’s backcourt of Gerald Henderson and Kemba Walker had no problem putt the ball in the hoop early on, combining for 33 first-half points. Henderson made his first four shots and drilled eight of 10 tries early on, while Walker hit six of nine shots in the first half. The two Charlotte guards keyed an 11-2 run at the end of the half to sent the Magic to the locker room trailing by 12 at intermission.

Vucevic, who has evolved into one of Orlando’s most consistent players of late, said the Magic have to bring the same level of focus and intensity into games against lesser foes as they do against the elite teams.

``In the position that we’re in, you always have to respect teams. We’re 14-25, so we have to worry about everybody,’’ Vucevic said. ``(The Bobcats) are a good team even thought they aren’t playing well. If those players are in the NBA, that means they can play and we have to respect them. We just didn’t play well.’’


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