By John Denton
April 5, 2013
``We drew something up and they played pretty good defense on the out of bounds. I had to get the ball to Nik and when he got it back to me they trapped,’’ Udrih recalled. ``I went opposite of the screen where the trap was coming and I tried to spin between the weak-side help and I fell down. Sometimes that’s how it is in the end of the game. Sometimes the referees make the call and sometimes they don’t. They played pretty good defense.’’
Vucevic added 16 points and 15 rebounds, while Tobias Harris chipped in 12 points. Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he wanted his team to take the time off an take a final shot for the win.
``We had a play drawn up and they did a good job of denying us the first look that we wanted,’’ Vaughn said. ``The pick-and-roll was good for us tonight and we had a pick-and-roll with 15 or 16 seconds left on the clock. They just had a better (defensive) possession at the end than we did.
``I would have loved for (Udrih) to have jumped up and dunked that thing; if he could have done that I would have loved it,’’ Vaughn continued. ``You just want a shot at the end. He did a great job all night of penetrating the basketball and creating shots for himself and others. He tried again, but it was good defense.’’
Luol Deng has 19 points and two 3-pointers for the Bulls (42-33). Nate Robinson also scored 19 points off the bench and hit three 3-pointers to hurt the Magic. Chicago shot just 40.2 percent, while the Magic made only 42.5 percent of its tries. The Bulls had twice as many 3-pointers (eight) as the Magic (four).
The Magic suffered a blow in the first half when rookie forward Maurice Harkless injured his left knee and did not return. Harkless played just nine minutes and missed his only shot. The rookie had played especially well on this road trip, scoring 17 points against Atlanta, a career-best 28 points in Houston on Monday and 18 in San Antonio. The loss of Harkless left the Magic will eight available bodies over the final three quarters of the game.
Orlando again didn’t have veteran point guard Jameer Nelson (sprained right ankle) or Al Harrington (sore knee). Chicago, meanwhile, was playing on the second night of a back-to-back after winning Thursday in Brooklyn and in its fifth game in seven nights. Chicago was also without Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli because of injuries.
``It was great (being on the floor at the end of the game) and it just shows that Coach Vaughn has some trust in me,’’ said Orlando’s DeQuan Jones, who had 10 points and the dunk that drew Orlando to within one point with 1:33 to play.
``Coming in at halftime we figured that (Harkless) wasn’t going to be coming back so we just talked about how we were going to combat his injury and pull his load.’’ Orlando’s longest trip of the season – a five-game, 10-day trip – comes to a close Sunday night when the Magic face the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Three home games remain: Milwaukee (Wednesday), Boston (Saturday) and Chicago (April 15). The Magic close the regular season on April 17 in Miami against the Heat.
Orlando took a 70-66 lead into the fourth quarter, and it could have been even greater if Chicago guard Nate Robinson had not thrown in a desperation 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.
They were able to surge into the lead because of the phenomenal shooting of Udrih, who had 18 points in the third quarter alone. During one stretch of the period, Udrih scored 14 straight Magic points on two 3-pointers and four pick-and-roll jumpers. He later added four more free throws and he made six of nine shots in the period.
Udrih scored a season-best 20 points last Saturday in Atlanta, and he nearly had that total in Friday’s third period. That hot stretch gave him 27 points through three periods, and got him close to his career high of 34 points accomplished in 2010 when he played for the Sacramento Kings.
``We played really with a good pace, we had good spacing and the bigs were setting good screens,’’ Udrih said. ``I was coming out of the pick-and-roll and I was wide open and able to knock down some shots. Nik made a couple of good passes out of the post and I was just trying to be aggressive and make the right plays.’’
Not only did the Magic grab their first lead in 120 minutes of game action in Friday’s first half, but they also led 43-40 at intermission. Sluggish offensively with little movement, the Magic whipped up a 10-2 run behind Udrih to zip into the lead.
With the Magic being shorthanded and the Bulls having played a night earlier and being without several key pieces, the first half was mostly a mess on both sides. The Magic shot 40 percent in the first half, while the Bulls slogged to 33.3 percent shooting and one of nine shooting from 3-pont range.
Orlando led 2-0 early in the game for its first lead since the final seconds of the second quarter Saturday night in Atlanta. The Magic never led in the second half against the Hawks and never once led against Houston or San Antonio – a stretch of 120 minutes of game action.
Vucevic played well in Friday’s first half, burying three jump shots and converting two follow-up baskets. For a long stretch, his work on the offensive glass was Orlando’s only steady offense. He had 10 points and eight rebounds in the first 24 minutes. Vucevic said after the game that the next step for a Magic squad with five rookies and three second-year players is learning how to finish off solid efforts with strong closing performances.
``Our next step is closing out games,’’ he said. ``We’ve lost a lot of close games and a lot of games where we had the lead but let it slip away. But this is part of the process of us getting better and getting more mature.’’
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