By John Denton
February 22, 2013
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Down to what amounted to just seven players and playing without two franchise fixtures of much of the past decade, the Orlando Magic hung tough for most of Friday night before ultimately running out of steam late in the game.
Still, those involved in what turned out to be one of the Magic’s gutsiest and grittiest efforts of the season were impressed with what they witnessed.
Short-handed because of the trading of J.J. Redick and three others on Thursday and playing without injured veteran point guard Jameer Nelson, Orlando shocking led by five points late in the first half and made several spirited runs at the surging Memphis Grizzlies late in the game.
But when Magic starters Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson fouled out early in the fourth quarter, leaving the team with just five players on the floor and Al Harrington on the bench, Orlando’s hopes of a stirring upset victory died.
Magic guard E’Twaun Moore missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 5 minutes to play, and Memphis overwhelmed Orlando late with too much Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in an 88-82 win at FedEx Forum.
Despite the loss – Orlando’s fourth in a row and third since the All-Star break – there was plenty to be proud of, veteran guard Arron Afflalo said. ``We’re trying to build a certain culture here and sometimes you do have to build from the ground up. With our young guys I’m proud of the way they fought tonight, even when the game seemed out of reach,’’ said Afflalo, who had 20 points in 44 minutes. ``We battled back. I’ll never enjoy losing, period. But I do enjoy growing, and tonight I felt like with seven guys we grew tonight.’’
Had the Magic (15-40) been able to pull off Friday’s game it would have been one of the unlikeliest victories in franchise history considering the odds stacked against the team. On this night, the Magic fought hard defensively and played as one on the offensive end to send a scare into Memphis (36-18) and the home crowd of 17,669.
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