By John Denton
November 23, 2012
ORLANDO – On the two plays that finally allowed Orlando to put some distance between themselves and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Magic delivered the kind of teamwork and sharing of the basketball that made head coach Jacque Vaughn and most everyone inside the Amway Center downright ecstatic on Friday night.
Up just a point with 2 minutes to play, Nikola Vucevic tipped a rebound out to point guard Jameer Nelson, who swung the ball around the perimeter to Arron Afflalo for a clutch 3-pointer.
And seconds later, with the Cavs back to within a point of the Magic, J.J. Redick ran a pick-and-roll play to perfection by drawing the defense to him and dishing to Vucevic for another key basket.
Those perfectly executed plays, combined with some clutch free throw shooting from Redick in the final minute, allowed the Magic to pull out a hard-fought 108-104 victory against Cleveland before 17,334 at the Amway Center.
``We had some great moments of sharing the basketball down the stretch,’’ Afflalo said. ``That allowed us to hit some key shots and get a good win.’’
The victory allowed the Magic (5-7) to inch closer to .500 and string together consecutive wins for the first time since the first two games of the season. The Magic are 2-0 on their longest home stand of the season with games still to come against Boston (Sunday), San Antonio (Wednesday) and Brooklyn (Friday).
When Friday’s gritty win was complete, Vaughn’s focus was on the way the Magic got contributions from all over the roster and thrived down the stretch by sharing the ball.
``You look down at the stat sheet and there are numbers all over the place with guys contributing in a lot of different ways,’’ Vaughn said. ``This was just another example of how we have to play – as a team, playing together and rebounding together as much as we can. We tried to complicate things with turnovers in the first half, but we made a good adjustment and we gave ourselves a chance.’’
Redick finished with 18 points in large part by making eight straight free throws in the final 21.9 seconds of the game. Nelson scored a season-best 22 points and hit four 3-pointers, while Afflalo added 19 points and four more 3-pointers. For the game, the Magic made 11 of 21 3-pointers to help them overcome 18 turnovers – 16 of which came in the first half.
Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis added 16 points, eight rebounds and three courtside fans he wiped out by diving out of bounds for a loose ball. Davis had a three-point play in which he converted a difficult left-handed layup as he was fouled to give the Magic a 90-88 lead – one they would not surrender over the final 6 minutes of the game.
As for the dive into the third row of the stands – a move that had Davis’ mother running out of her seat to check on her son – Davis said he hoped it showed teammates his commitment to winning. ``I’m going to do whatever it takes to win,’’ Davis said. ``I don’t care how many points I have or rebounds I have. It’s not about stats; it’s about winning ball games. ``It’s about doing what you need to do to win a game,’’ Davis continued. ``Yeah, I’m the outgoing guy, but I’m also an action guy and I’m using my energy to motivate others to get out there and win.’’
Cleveland was without standout point guard Kyrie Irving, who is out with a broken finger on his left hand. Rookie guard Dion Waiters scored 25 points, while Anderson Varejao chipped in 19 points and 17 rebounds (11 offensive boards).
Up 100-97 after Afflalo’s 3-pointer and Vucevic’s layup, the Magic coasted to the finish on the strength of Redick steady free throw shooting. Four times he went to the line with the Magic up by just two points and he answered with eight consecutive makes.
Redick, who has made 35 of 39 free throws on the season (89.7 percent), credited his teammates with getting him the ball at the end of the game so he could seal the victory from the foul line. But Redick said his favorite play of the night was the pick-and-roll play to Vucevic that gave Orlando a 100-97 lead with 32 seconds to play.
``Oh, the bounce pass was my favorite,’’ Redick said with a smile. ``The free throws, hopefully, are something that I should make. … Nothing is ever old hat and you always get excited when you are in a situation where it’s a close game and free throws are required. Every point in time I was shooting the free throws it was a one-possession game and we needed both free throws.’’
Nelson, who also had six rebounds and six assists to go with his 22 points, went to work on the Cleveland defense in the third quarter to get the Magic back into the game. The veteran point guard scored 12 points in the third period, including a nifty steal and fastbreak layup to tie the game for the first time since the first quarter.
And by the time Nelson drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the night just before the end of the third period, it tied the game at 76-all and gave him 22 points on the night. Nelson’s previous high on the season was the 13 points he scored in Detroit last Friday night. Nelson finished by making nine of 18 shots and four of eight 3-pointers.
``I ended up playing him the entire third (quarter) and that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go because I wanted to save him toward the end, but he got it rolling,’’ Vaughn said of Nelson. ``His penetration was great for us and he made some shots. It was a good run for us in the third to kind of change the direction of the game and get it back in our favor.’’
The Magic trailed 51-45 largely because of their sloppiness with the ball. Orlando turned the ball over a staggering 16 times, leading to almost half of Cleveland’s points (21) in the first 24 minutes. Afflalo had four turnovers, Nikola Vucevic had three and Gustavo Ayon and Redick committed two apiece in the first half.
``Part of it is just making the right play and sometimes it takes a while to get a grasp on how teams are playing you,’’ Redick said. ``I know two of my turnovers are because I didn’t make the right read. They were essentially daring me to shoot the foul line jumper and I forced a couple of passes inside when I should have pulled up. I was trying to be unselfish and I have to learn from that.’’
Orlando stayed in the game by shooting the ball well from the floor (47.2 percent) and exceptionally well from the 3-point line (58.3 percent). Of the Magic’s seven 3-pointers early on, Redick, Nelson and Afflalo each hit two apiece.
Magic rookie Maurice Harkless got his second career start at small forward, but he played just 9 minutes in the first half as Vaughn went to his bench early and often. Vaughn used 10 players in the first quarter alone.
In the end, the Magic notched one of their gutsiest wins of the season by correcting the turnovers of the first half, executing in the clutch and getting some solid free throw shooting from Redick.
``It was an important game for us, especially with us being on this five-game home stand and needing to get as many wins as possible,’’ Davis said. ``We’re trying to get back to .500 to compete for a chance to be somewhere in the postseason. We also needed this for the confidence of our young guys to make sure they learn and what it takes to win a game like this.’’
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