By John Denton
March 8, 2013
Tobias Harris, acquired two weeks ago in the trade with Milwaukee, got his first in a Magic uniform, but he struggled through a seven-point, eight-rebound night. Rugged Indiana power forward David West got Harris in early foul trouble and the Magic forward admitted it took him out of his game.
``Sometimes you just have to get through (foul trouble),’’ Harris said. ``He got a couple of fouls on me, but I just played solid defense and played as hard as I could versus him. So I’ll admit that he did get to me a little bit, but that’s the last time you’ll see something like that.’’
Rookie small forward Maurice Harkless missed all eight of his shots and had just three points in 27 minutes. For whatever reason he had trouble handling his dribble and turned the ball over four times.
Arron Afflalo scored 11 of his 19 points in the third quarter after the game was mostly out of reach. Nik Vucevic, who had 25 points and 21 rebounds against Miami, scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
Paul George crushed the Magic’s spirits in the third period when scored 18 of his game-high 25 points. The Pacers, who led by as much as 29 points, had 50 points in the paint.
Friday’s game was the beginning of a three-game home stand for the Magic. Orlando will host the slumping Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday at 6 p.m. The Magic will then turn their focus to Tuesday’s showdown against former Orlando center Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers.
``I’ll tell our guys that losing is still not acceptable,’’ said Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who had 10 points and six assists. ``We’re working toward something and we’re trying to do things the right way and trying to practice good habits. We’re doing that so in the near future we’ll be a lot better team.’’
Vaughn rewarded Harris’ strong play of late by moving him into the starting lineup on Friday night. Harris, who was acquired in a trade deadline transaction with the Milwaukee Bucks, scored in double figures in six of his first seven games with the Magic and he came into Friday averaging 16.7 points while shooting 67 percent from the floor.
A 15-point game at the half only got worse in the third quarter when Orlando had troubles handling the ball and slowing down Indiana’s Paul George. The Magic kicked the ball away eight times in the third quarter alone, leading to 12 Indiana points. George made the Magic pay for many of those mistakes, hitting three straight 3-pointers during one stretch. The first-time all-star had 17 points in the third quarter to help the Pacers push the lead to as much as 26 points.
``They are a tall, lanky team and they take up a lot of the lane,’’ Harris said. ``I thought we should have gotten out on the break more and run more. They are a team with a lot of size. (Running the fast break) is something that we have to work on to get better.’’
Indiana came into the game first in the NBA in defensive field goal percentage and second in points allowed per game, and it certainly made things difficult on the Magic in the first half. Orlando shot just 33.3 percent from the floor early on and trailed 53-38 at intermission.
Indiana’s length on the wings and in the lane made life miserable in the first half for Harkless (0 of 6), Nelson (0 of 4) and Afflalo (2 of 8). The half ended with Afflalo getting banged around in the post by the taller Paul George, who forced a contested shot that hit off the side of the backboard.
Emotions ran hot in the first half as George shoved Afflalo after the whistle on a first-quarter layup attempt and the two players had to be separated. Both players were hit with technical fouls, and Indiana’s Lance Stephenson was later hit with a technical foul for jawing at Orlando’s Harkless.
Starting slowly has been a problem of late for the Magic, and it was something that Vaughn hoped his team would avoid on Friday night. Orlando has averaged just 44 points in the first half in the past seven games and have routinely fallen into double-digit deficits. Vaughn hoped the strong finish to Wednesday’s game in Miami would carry over, but it did not against a rugged Indiana defense. In the first half, the Magic had as many turnovers (10) as assists (10).
``(Wednesday’s loss in Miami) shouldn’t have affected us because we have young legs,’’ Nelson said. ``It just comes down to the fact that we should have been more aggressive. We can’t let them take the fight to us like they did. They hit us first all night and we’ve got to find a way to respond better.’’
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